The 20-year-old Olympic Winter Institute/Victorian Institute of Sport athlete secured his first major title ahead of China’s silver medallist Zhang Yiwei and Slovakian Tim-Kevin Ravnjak.
In a day heralding a new beginning for Australian men’s halfpipe, 19-year-old fellow OWIA/NSWIS rider Kent Callister also finished impressively in sixth place in the 10-man Championships final after winning his qualification heat yesterday.
James’ gold medal comes 48 hours after aerial skier Laura Peel provide the perfect start to these Championships by leaving Kreischberg with her first major title win.
With wins to James and Peel, Australia has won two of the six gold medals awarded so far.
Right from the start of the halfpipe competition, James asserted his dominance over the strong field, and like Callister, he also won his heat to advance to the final.
And in the final, James immediately declared his intentions by putting down a highly impressive performance in his first run of the day.
It was this run of 91.50 points that the rest of the field were unable to equal. The next best were Zhang on 89.50 and Ravnjak on 89.25.
James said that the win “means the world to me” and was especially pleased to share the experience with his brother Tim, who was pipe-side to see his younger sibling secure gold.
“It’s been such a crazy journey the last couple of years and I’m absolutely over the moon right now,” he said.
“It feels like it has been a long time coming but today I guess it all worked out for me.
“I’m really happy right now and to do it for Australia is even better.”
It’s a journey that started 17 years ago when James’ father Phil brought home a surprise for his then three-year-old son, a novelty display $10 snowboard.
James admits that the surprise was a “bit of a joke at the time” which has since evolved into serious business for the talented Australian.
At the age of three, the now 185cm tall athlete was too small for a conventional snowboard but when Phil saw the display snowboard, which was being used as a doorstop by a retailer, he had no idea that it would lead to a world championship title for his son.
“It all started when I was three when Dad bought me a little board which was actually a doorstop in a snow shop. It was like $10 and that is when it all started and I haven’t stopped since,” James recalled.
“I remember when he came home that night he said: ‘I’ve got a little surprise for you’.
“I used that for a couple of years and onwards from there.
“I have an awesome crew around me and my family have been amazing.”
Today’s huge win is a clear sign of the transformation of James who, at the age of 15, was the youngest male athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
“A while ago I was told I can stay where I am or put in the work and get some podiums.
“That has been my mentality this year and last year. The biggest thing is that I have grown up a lot. I’m a bit older and mature, making better decisions.
“My hunger to win big competitions has been a big part of it too.
“I’d like to say this is the start of a new journey for me. I like the feeling that I have right now. I’m going to fight for it every day and let my results do the talking.”
James' good friend and mentor, two-time Olympic medallist, Torah Bright, finished in 6th place after qualifying in third while World Championships debutant Emily Arthur did well to finish 16th. Holly Crawford was 21st.
The women’s title went to China’s Cai Xuetong, the silver was won by Spain’s Querait Castellet and Frenchwoman Clemence Grimal was third.
The other Australian, Nate Johnstone, was 12th.
The spotlight switches to moguls skiing tonight (Australian time) with the qualification session followed by the finals tomorrow.
Women’s snowboard halfpipe World Championships, Kreischberg, Austria
1. Cai Xuetong (CHN), 2. Querait Castellet (SPA), 3. Clemence Grimal (FRA), 4. Hikaru Oe(JPN), 5. Sophie Rodriguez (FRA), 6. Torah Bright (AUS), 16. Emily Arthur (AUS), 21. Holly Crawford (AUS).
Men’s snowboard halfpipe, World Championships, Kreischberg, Austria
1. Scotty James (AUS), 2. Zhang Yiwei (CHN), 3. Tim-Kevin Ravnjak (SLO), 4. Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), 5. Taku Hiraoka (JPN), 6. Kent Callister (AUS), 12. Nate Johnstone (AUS).