After qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team, Russell Currier (national team/Maine Winter Sports Center) headed back to the World Cup for the first time this season, after his fall races did not qualify him to make a trip to Europe. A World Cup regular for the last few seasons, it was his only chance to compete against the sport’s top competition before going to Sochi for the Games.
The races in Antholz, Italy, this weekend came after a four-race series on the IBU Cup, which were used as selection trials by the U.S. team.
“The week of Olympic trials were pretty stressful,” Currier wrote in an e-mail. “Racing under stress still works, but at minimum range times tend to suffer. Worst case, the hit percentages go down and you don’t make the team. After making it through alive the stress level dropped. I wanted to see if the lack of pressure would help or not. Ski speed was still good if not faster, and shooting has more potential now.”
In the 10 k sprint on Friday, Currier placed 60th despite four penalties. That was thanks to the 17th-best ski time of the day, which he found a bit surprising.
“The overall feeling after this weekend is alright,” he wrote. “There was nothing special about the sprint or pursuit, but both races were solid. I was a little surprised with the ski speed in the sprint. The conditions were not my strong point and I didn’t know what to expect being back on the World Cup. So I stoked with a top 20 loop time.”
That qualified him for Saturday’s 12.5 k pursuit, where he was the last starter. Currier missed four shots again, but with twice as many shooting bouts, that meant a major improvement in accuracy. He gained two spots to finish 47th (10 men did not start and one did not finish).
“The pursuit was a better day on the shooting side,” Currier wrote. “Skiing was fine, but if you’re not in a good train it’s hard to do anything fast. I was bib 60 and alone for most of the race. Shooting was one step closer to the World Cup level that it needs to be. Not great, but better than the sprint.”
All in all, he said it was a fine weekend of racing for his last start before the Olympics. With Leif Nordgren and Sean Doherty both sick, the U.S. does not have enough healthy skiers to make a relay team for Sunday’s race, which is the last of this period of competition.
“There isn’t much to complain about right now,” he wrote. “It still feels great just to be on the World Cup atmosphere and to be preparing for Sochi!”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.