January 9

Olympic dreams still alive for Mainers

Spots are up for grabs in qualifying races the next couple of weeks.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

With less than a month before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, seven Mainers are in the final stages of qualifying events.

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Two-time gold medalist Seth Wescott reacts after his race in the final of the snowboard cross competition at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

The Associated Press

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Russell Currier, a Stockholm native, could be the first to earn a trip to the Winter Games. He is competing in two biathlons this weekend in Italy and could know by Sunday night whether he has made the team.

Currier is one of four Americans competing for the final two spots on the U.S. Biathlon team and is in good position after the first two races in Italy last weekend. He was the top U.S. finisher in one 10-kilometer sprint, the second in another.

“He has had two good performances there,’’ said Max Cobb, the president and CEO of U.S. Biathlon. “He just needs to keep doing well.’’

For six other Mainers – snowboard cross racers Seth Wescott (Carrabassett Valley) and Alex Tuttle (Stratton), moguls skiers Jeremy Cota (Greenville), Dave DiGravio (Farmington) and Troy Murphy (Bethel) and halfpipe freestyle skier Simon Dumont (Bethel) – the path to Sochi will continue for a while longer. And perhaps is a little more complicated.

These six will compete in World Cup events in the next 11 days with podium finishes (anything in the top three) going a long way toward earning a trip to Sochi. But overall World Cup points will also be part of the qualification process, so it’s inherent that each finish as high as possible in every event.

“I think two podiums would guarantee a spot,’’ said Cota. “But you don’t necessarily need two podiums. It’s more about just trying to ski well at each event.’’

BIATHLON

Currier is trying to become the first home-grown product of the Maine Winter Sports Center in Caribou to make the U.S. biathlon team. Ben Koons, a New Zealand Olympic cross country skier in 2010, attended Messalonskee High in Oakland. He’s among 11 competitors who trained at the MWSC and went to the Olympics. None were born in Maine.

Currier, 26, is doing his best to change that. Knowing that two Olympic berths were open among the four U.S. athletes competing in the IBU Cup races in Italy, Currier has put himself in great position to earn a berth in the first two races. Two more will be held, Saturday and Sunday, with the U.S. Biathlon team named after the final race.

“Russell is definitely in good position,’’said Andy Shepard, the president and CEO of the Maine Winter Sports Center. “But I think he needs to continue to perform to win. He did that in the first two competitions. That should be enough for me, but this is a very competitive environment and nobody has a lock on anything yet.’’

Currier knows this. Contacted by email earlier this week, he said he tries not to think about the stakes. “There is a lot of pressure,’’ he said. “Some things you just really want. For me, the best bet is to not think about it.’’

He spent the offseason concentrating on his physical condition and shooting. “There was never much in the way for distractions,’’ he said. “I thought of it as my job and just showed up for work in the morning.’’

With an Olympic berth so close, Currier said, “Sochi is very exciting to think about. But right now I need to qualify first.’’

SNOWBOARD CROSS

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