February 21, 2018
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Maine biathlon competitor expects better experience for Olympic athletes at Pyeongchang venue

NordicFocus | Courtesy of Russell Currier | BDN
NordicFocus | Courtesy of Russell Currier | BDN
Russell Currier of Stockholm, shown in a 2014 World Cup race in Antolze, Italy, is competing in 2016-17 Biathlon World Cup races in Europe as a member of the U.S. Biathlon team.
By Colton Wood, Special to the BDN
Updated:

Biathlete Russell Currier is preparing for his second straight appearance in the Winter Olympics, but despite qualifying for the U.S. men’s Olympic biathlon team, his future at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea is in peril.

Currier, a native of Stockholm, Maine, secured the fifth and final spot on the men’s biathlon team earlier this month. However, the men’s team is only given four starting spots, leaving Currier as one of the team’s reserve members.

“While I’m still very thankful to have been named to the team, there is still the chance that I won’t be able to race (in) February,” Currier said via email. “That would be a bit of a letdown. Still, the atmosphere of the games is on a whole new level from any other World Cup or world (championship). The racing formats are all the same, but the hype surrounding them is unique.

Being in the mix and a part of everything is an honor.”

With his racing status in question and the possibility that he may have to watch his teammates compete for Olympic glory from afar, Currier admitted there is a different feeling that comes with this year’s Olympic Games.

In his first Olympic appearance in 2014, Currier finished 49th in the individual event, 60th in the sprint and recorded a 16th-place finish in the relay.

In 2009, Currier was a member of the U.S. world championship team. The championship was held in South Korea and took place on the exact course the biathletes will be racing on next month. Although the course isn’t perfect for Currier, he said it is better suited to his strengths than the course in Sochi, Russia.

“The climb out of the stadium was something I could use to my advantage, but some of the more technical corners were not to my liking,” he said. “The loop in Sochi had a lot of these, and the slushy conditions made it more technical. So, I would have to give the upper hand to Korea race course-wise.”

After two balmy Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang is expected to be much colder than the games in Vancouver and Sochi. While this may be exhilarating for most athletes, Currier isn’t so sure yet if the conditions will be significantly better compared to previous games.

“When things drop close to the legal racing temperature cutoff (minus-4 Fahrenheit), things become more complicated,” he said. “If the air temps are a normal winter level, then it’s ideal — that is cold enough to keep the snow in good shape but not so cold that you’re fighting frostbite.”

Despite the thrill of making his Olympic debut in 2014, Currier’s experience wasn’t completely stimulating.

During the games, Currier went to Twitter to vent about several issues he experienced while in Russia, including concerns with transportation and Wi-Fi.

“The biggest frustration I can remember from Sochi was the poor transportation,” Currier said.

“Everything was a 10 or more-minute walk. We were promised a transport at a nearby stop close to our cabin, which was the furthest cabin from anywhere. This had about a 1 in 10 chance of actually happening and, in the end, it was faster to give up on waiting and just walk. I hope things run a little more dependably this time around. If the Wi-Fi is half as good as I hear it is in South Korea, we should be fine on that one.”

Currier said that while the transportation and Wi-Fi issues were frustrating, the food in Russia was “really good” and he expects the food to be just as good in Korea.

“The cafeteria in the Endurance Village was supposedly the best of the three villages. From what we’ve been briefed on, the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) has taken a charge on our food options in South Korea,” Currier said. “I don’t know how efficient and easy meals will be, but it sounds like we should be able to have any kind of nutrition we need made ready if we

request ahead.”

If accommodations are better suited for the athletes this year and Currier’s schedule is free, he hopes to be able to explore what Pyeongchang has to offer.

“It would be great to get out of the village at least once,” he said. “You would think we would have plenty of time, but oddly enough we’re busy with one task or another most of the time. If the process of exploring isn’t too much of a logistical hassle like it was in Sochi, I’ll certainly get out and enjoy the place.”

If Currier gets the opportunity to compete in this year’s Olympics, his first chance to secure a medal will be on Feb. 11 in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint.

Colton Wood, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a freelance journalist and a student at Michigan State University. He has covered several NFL, NBA and NHL games, along with numerous NASCAR weekends and various collegiate sports for multiple publications, including ESPN, USA Hockey, The Washington Times and Florida Today.


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