The World Series-champion Boston Red Sox were honored at the White House on Tuesday.
On Thursday, it’s Russell Currier’s turn.
The 26-year-old biathlete from the Aroostook County hamlet of Stockholm and other members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams that competed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, will be recognized by President Obama during a scheduled afternoon ceremony.
“It should be pretty good,” said Currier, who competed in three events at Sochi during his Olympic debut. “I’m not into all the politics, but it’s a good time for all the athletes to get together because the season’s over and they’re ready for just about anything, and a free tour of the White House should be fun.”
The Caribou High School graduate and Maine Winter Sports Center product has spent some quiet time back in his home state since the end of the post-Olympic World Cup biathlon season — with his most recent competition a victory at the Sugarloaf Ski Marathon 50-kilometer cross-country race on March 22.
He would have preferred to still be competing on the World Cup biathlon circuit that weekend, but he raced on the wrong skis during an early March 10K sprint in Pokljukas, Slovakia, and his 73rd-place finish wasn’t enough for him to be selected to compete at the final two events of the season in Finland and Norway.
“We all have high intentions and goals,” said Currier, the only native Mainer to compete in the 2014 Winter Games. “I really had hoped to make more of that last [World Cup schedule] trimester. I felt like I came close to some pretty good results but I couldn’t quite get there.”
That late-season disappointment capped off a rollercoaster season that started with Currier being left off the original U.S.World Cup team that began competing in Europe last fall.
But Currier eventually earned a ticket to Europe to represent the United States in the second-tier International Biathlon Union Cup events and became one of four biathletes selected to battle for the final two U.S. Olympic team berths.
Currier emerged as the best of those contenders in the four IBU Cup races used as selection events, scoring three first-place finishes and one second among the American contingent.
“It was awesome,” he said. “There was so much stress starting out in November and having to work my way up through to the ‘B’ World Cup and then having it come down to two weekends, really four races over eight or nine days, to make the Olympic team. It was a long, stressful road to get to where I wanted to be.”
Currier was on a high heading into the Sochi Games, but that elation was tempered by the quality of the Olympic competition. He placed 61st in his first Olympic event, the men’s 10-kilometer sprint, then was 50th in the 20K individual race and skied the second leg of a 16th-place U.S. 4×7.5-kilometer men’s relay team.
“I met the baseline goal of making the team,” said Currier. “Really from then on it wasn’t quite as good as it could have been.”
Two of Currier’s more veteran teammates, Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke, had more successful individual runs Sochi, with Burke posting two top-25 finishes and Bailey’s eighth-place effort in the men’s 20K individual race the best-ever finish by an American men’s biathlete in an Olympic event.
Those success give Currier reason for optimism as he looks toward attempting to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“It’s always great to see the other guys get good results,” Currier said. “[U.S. teammate] Leif [Nordgren] and I are just getting to that point, and to see Tim and Lowell do what they did is motivating.
“And I’ll be 30 by , which is a pretty good age for a biathlete.”
Currier knows that improvement in the shooting component of the biathlon will be essential to his continued advancement on the national and world stages.
“The bulk of my weak points is still shooting,” said Currier, “and not even shooting better but shooting faster. I need to be getting more consistent with that.”
Currier and other U.S. World Cup-level biathletes essentially train year-round, a routine that will resume formally soon in Lake Placid, N.Y. Currier also expects to attend a U.S. training camp in Oregon in mid-May, as well as a European training camp in late summer.
The 2014-15 World Cup season begins in late November, after a team selection process that begins with nominations in late April and likely will conclude for Currier with qualifying events in Vermont in August and Utah in October that will determine which of several national teams to which he qualifies.
But first there’s that stop at the White House.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.