February 10

Maine biathlete stays positive, looks ahead

Russell Currier finished back in the pack in his first biathlon event, but has another Thursday and appreciates the home support.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Russell Currier thought he had competed on the big stage before, as part of the U.S. Biathlon team on the World Cup tour.

click image to enlarge

Maine’s Russell Currier competes Saturday in the 10K biathlon sprint. He finished 61st and missed the cutoff for competing in the pursuit race by just three seconds.

U.S. Biathlon photo

click image to enlarge

Russell Currier

Then he skied onto the 10-kilometer biathlon course at the Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

“There’s a completely different atmosphere here,’’ Currier said in a telephone interview Sunday. “We’re used to the places in central Europe or northern Europe. This is just very impressive. It’s almost like a vacation, the venue, the course, everything, compared to our normal stops. It’s very unique in its own way.’’

Currier, the 26-year-old from Stockholm who is Maine’s only athlete competing in these Winter Olympics, admittedly had a disappointing result in his first Olympic competition. In Saturday’s 10-kilometer biathlon sprint – the sport combining cross country skiing with target shooting – he finished 61st out of 87 competitors with a time of 26 minutes, 58.5 seconds. He missed the cutoff to compete in Monday’s pursuit race by one place and less than three seconds. Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won the sprint in 24:33.5.

Except for some minor inconveniences – like the shuttle bus seldom showing up when it’s scheduled, and the result in his first event – Currier’s first experience at the Olympics has been everything he hoped.

“Oh yeah. I mean, from the result side, no,’’ he said. “For everything else, the whole thing is as good as anyone described it to me.’’

Currier spoke after completing a training run Sunday morning. He will have Monday off, then resume practicing for Thursday’s 20K individual, which starts at 9 a.m.

“There could be other races after that,’’ said Currier. “But that’s the next one and that’s the one I’m focused on.’’

He hopes to finally get together with his parents, Chris and Debbie, on Monday. They arrived last week, but because of strict security measures and his training schedule, they have yet to join up. Currier said his parents are a 15-minute gondola ride down the mountain.

“I’m just glad they were able to connect with other people there that they knew (through U.S. Biathlon) and who gave them an idea of how to navigate this place,’’ he said.

Debbie Currier said in an email Sunday that she understands the security measures and was looking forward to seeing her son.

“We are enjoying the beauty of this place, mindful and appreciative of the security everywhere, and we are having a great time,’’ she said.

And, she said, regardless of Russell Currier’s finish, they were proud to see him compete.

“We cheered as loud as we could when he skied by, (we) wanted him to know we were there and proud of him,’’ she said. “And finally (we are) at a European race where we could do that.’’

She said they could not see him on the shooting range, but knew he had missed four when he skied past them.

Russell Currier also knew what those misses – which came on his first five shots, in the prone position – meant for his chances. In a sport that combines cross country skiing with target shooting, it is imperative to minimize the misses. Each miss Saturday forced Currier, who said he wasn’t nervous, to complete a 150-meter penalty lap, which obviously added to his total time.

Currier went a perfect 5 for 5 shooting from the standing position to give himself a chance to make Monday’s pursuit.

“There are plenty of reasons to be positive,’’ said Currier. “I only missed by three seconds.’’

Vladimir Iliev of Bulgaria earned the final spot in the pursuit with a time of 26:55.9. He also missed four targets. But unlike Currier, Iliev spread out his misses – two in each position. By missing four of his first five shots, Currier knew he had to be flawless – and fast – the rest of the way.

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