February 9

Hometown fans cheer Maine Olympian Russell Currier in Caribou

Many attend the Caribou Downtown Ski Festival and get to watch their local hero compete in the Sochi Olympics.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CARIBOU — “Have you seen him?’’

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Televisions showing a live-stream of the Olympics 10K biathlon sprint, in which Russell Currier competed Saturday, draw a crowd at the Options RTO store in downtown Caribou. Many of the viewers took a break from competing in the Caribou Downtown Ski Festival to watch Currier, who grew up in nearby Stockholm. The only Maine native in the Games, Currier finished 61st in a field of 87 with a time of 26:58.5.

Michael C. York/Staff Photographer

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Maine’s Russell Currier in the biathlon 10K sprint Saturday.

Jack Gruber/USA TODAY Sports

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(Penalties in parentheses)

Gold: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Norway, 24:33.5 (1)

Silver: Dominik Landertinger, Austria, 24:34.8 (0)

Bronze: Jaroslav Soukup, Czech Republic, 24:39.2 (0)

U.S. Finishers

19. Tim Burke, Paul Smiths, N.Y., 25:23.3 (1)

35. Lowell Bailey, Lake Placid, N.Y., 26:04.1 (2)

45. Leif Nordgren, Marine on St. Croix, Minn., 26:17.4 (0)

61. Russell Currier, Stockholm, Maine, 26:58.5 (4)

“Has he raced yet?’’

Slowly they filed into the Options RTO store on Sweden Street, gathering around a group of four televisions showing the 10-kilometer biathlon sprint at the Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia – the 10K sprint that included Russell Currier, friend to many in the crowd, known to all of them.

Everyone wanted a glimpse. “Has he started?”

Currier, a 26-year-old from nearby Stockholm, was competing in his first Olympics. He is the only Maine native competing in the Olympics this year.

Currier finished 61st with a time of 26:58.5 in the event that combines cross-country skiing with target shooting.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway missed one target before finishing in 24 minutes, 33.5 seconds to capture his seventh career Olympic gold medal and 12th overall. Dominik Landertinger of Austria finished 1.3 seconds behind to take silver, and Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic won bronze, trailing Bjoerndalen by 5.7 seconds. Tim Burke, who like Currier trains at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Caribou, was the top American, in 19th place, while Lowell Bailey, who also trains at the sports center, was 35th.

Currier had four penalties – he missed four of his first five targets while shooting in the prone position and each miss added a 150-meter penalty lap to his time – and missed qualifying for Monday’s sprint race by one spot. But that did little to diminish the enthusiasm that was tangible among the people watching.

As Currier, one of the final competitors to finish the race, was shown approaching the finish line – “There’s Russell,’’ someone said. “He just said Russell’s name” – the crowd clapped and cheered as hard as if he had won a medal.

“He’s just getting warmed up,” said Catherine Packard, who knows Currier’s parents, Chris and Debbie, and whose daughter, Danni Anderson, is a close friend of Currier’s and skied with him at the Maine Winter Sports Center.

The showing of the race coincided with the Caribou Downtown Ski Festival, the town’s annual cross-country ski racing festival for all ages. It was not by accident.

Kathy Mazzuchelli, the head of the Caribou Parks and Recreation Department, said that while the festival had been planned for a while, “we’re doing it to honor Russell as well. He started out doing things like this. It’s kind of fun to see the little kids here, and to see Russell where he is.”

And that’s why people came to watch, to see one of their own compete on the world’s biggest stage for his sport.

“You know, Aroostook County is just one really big small town,” said Jemelie Duepo of Woodland, who brought her children to ski but didn’t want to miss Currier’s race. “I grew up in Stockholm, just down the road from Russell. He skied with my younger siblings.

“This is amazing, isn’t it? It’s great that we all get to come here and watch this.’’

When the Olympic race began at 9:30 a.m., there were about 40 or so people crowded into the shop to watch, craning their necks to see the screens. Currier, wearing bib No. 87, was one of the final starters. But they also cheered for fellow Americans and Maine Winter Sports Center athletes Bailey and Burke. When Burke hit all five of his targets, they pumped fists and cheered.

Then the local racing began – right in front of the store, with snow piled and groomed Friday night over all of Sweden Street – and many people had to leave. But they kept track.

Every now and then someone would poke in and ask if Russell had raced yet. Some people peeked through the store window, trying to see where the race was at that point.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Maine’s Russell Currier in the biathlon 10K sprint Saturday.

Competitive Images/Paul Phillips

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Caribou Middle School ski team members watch intently in Caribou on Saturday as the men's biathlon 10K sprint from Sochi, Russia, is live-streamed.

Michael C. York/Staff Photographer

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Lowell Bailey, who trains at the Maine Winter Sports Center, shoots during the men’s biathlon 10k sprint at the Winter Olympics on Saturday. Bailey placed 35th in the event.

The Associated Press

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