James Woods appears to be a top medal contender for Great Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Not content with two wins in the Slopestyle World Cup, scoring successive podium positions in Ushuaia and Copper Mountain, Woods earned himself a silver medal at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships.
Alongside Katie Summerhayes, the 17-year old who finished just outside the medals in Voss, there seem to be a good few new Britons that could produce the goods in Sochi; snowboarder Billy Morgan, short track skater Elise Christie and skeleton’s Shelley Rudman and Lizzy Yarnold are just a selection of athletes whose names keep cropping up in recent months.
Woods’ success in the World Championships is no definite indicator of Olympic success, however. The 21-year old from Sheffield is largely consistent, but he’s also the first British skiier to win a World Championships since the 1993 edition in Altenmarkt. There, a silver medal was awarded to British aerials competitor Richard ‘Raz’ Cobbing and he was the first Briton to get on the podium since freestyle skiing World Championships were first held in 1986.
Cobbing is still Great Britain’s best ever aerials skiier, but he was hardly a regular victor. He actually started his sporting career as a young trampoline gymnast, taking part in the World Cup at just 17 years of age. By 1991, Cobbing made the move to freestyle skiing and started entering those World Cups, something he would do for a further five years.
In 1992, freestyle skiing was included in the Albertville Winter Olympics as a demonstration sport and aerials was one of the disciplines on show. It was there that Cobbing started to really take to the skis, finishing 11th. Real success came the following year at the World Championships. Including a triple somersault/triple twist in his routine, Cobbing became the first man to win an Olympic freestyle skiing medal for Great Britain, grabbing silver.
Further achievements followed in 1994. Cobbing won another silver in a World Cup event in Piancavallo, but his time in the limelight was already coming to an end. Tenth place in the Lillehammer Winter Olympics was the best he could manage and finished a lowly 28th in the 1995 World Championships in La Clusaz. He was able to win another silver medal in 1996, but in the lower level Europa Cup.
Cobbing never won a senior ranking event despite his success and Great Britain are hardly looking likely to produce someone that can go one better. At the 2013 World Championships, Britain were represented by Harry Gillam and Lloyd Wallace and, out of a field of 28 finishers, score 26th and 28th respectively.
Nevertheless, James Woods is looking in great shape to win Britain’s first ever skiing medal in Sochi. It’d be a fantastic boost for a side of winter sports largely ignored now and always has been in this country.
As always in the Archive series, head over to Youtube to watch a selection of Richard Cobbing’s successes. The short minute-long compilation features his Winter Olympic debut, the silver medal at the Worlds and his solo World Cup podium.