Olympic medal hopeful James Woods has spoken of his heartbreak at the demise of the venue which helped him hone his freestyle skiing skills.
Woods is preparing to fly the flag for Team GB on the brilliant white hills of Sochi, but not far from his thoughts are the memories of where it all began, on the dry slopes of Sheffield Ski Village which now stands sadly as a derelict wreck.
Not that it was ever especially salubrious: “I was always too cool to ride in anything other than a tee-shirt with no gloves, so it was very sore and your skin could get really cut up if you touched down,” said the Crosspool lad.
“It was pretty gnarly even at the best of times. There were bits of metal sticking out all over the place. It’s easy for me to forget about all that now because the world I’m living in now is so distant, but what I do remember is how fantastic and happy those days were.”
“You couldn’t beat it. We were kids messing around outside and having the most fun. It’s quite heart-breaking what’s happened to the place. It was a good place for kids to go and more than anything it just made me happy.”
Woods realised a long-held dream when he won a bronze medal at the Aspen X Games last year, a season in which he won the overall World Cup title in his discipline as well as a silver medal in the World Championships in Voss.
And Woods insists the sacrifices he has made to succeed make a mockery of some suggestions that the laid-back band of freestyle stars are somehow less inclined to appreciate the magnitude of being invited to perform on the Olympic stage.
“A lot of us are show-offs and like performing on camera but it would be foolish to say we don’t get nervous or that we won’t be taking our runs extremely seriously,” he said.
“Of course we’re out there for fun and having the time of our lives, but we will all be deadly serious when it comes to getting it right in Sochi.”