LA VILLA, Italy (AP) — There’s nothing easy about evolving from a top junior skier into a World Cup contender.
Just ask River Radamus, the Colorado racer who won three golds at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics and four medals (two golds and two silvers) at the junior world championships from 2017-2019.
The 23-year-old Radamus has been pushing his body to the limit this season, though, and the results are starting to come — just in time for the Beijing Olympics in February.
Radamus matched his career-best World Cup result by skiing through pain in his lower right leg to finish sixth in the demanding Alta Badia giant slalom on Sunday.
He also placed sixth in the season-opening giant slalom in Sölden, Austria, in October.
“Any time you can come here and put two runs together it feels good. I love this hill and getting sixth here is huge for me,” said Radamus, who placed fourth in the opening leg with the No. 18 bib. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I take the points, take the result and I keep going forward.”
The Gran Risa has everything that a giant slalom should offer: steep pitches that wind through the woods at the start, 180-degree turns and even built-in rolls and flatter terrain toward the finish that sometimes result in small jumps.
It’s a long course, too, leaving racers winded toward the finish.
That may have been a factor when Radamus crossed the line during his first run in a deep crouch, just barely keeping it together as he lost control then spun out in the finish area, resulting in his leg issue.
“I was pushing it, pushing it, pushing it. I knew that last gate could be an issue but I really wanted to leave it all out there, push as hard as I could,” he said. “I came over that thing a little bit surprised and a little bit wild but all I had in my head was, ‘Get across that line.’ I just managed to and obviously it paid off for me.”
He wasn’t too bothered by his leg pain.
“It’s nothing too serious, it’s just something that’s nagging me right now,” Radamus said.
Radamus was inspired by U.S. teammate Bryce Bennett’s first career win a day earlier in the Val Gardena downhill.
“It turned a lot of heads but it also gives the (entire) American team a little bit more confidence,” Radamus said. “We’ve been around that guy. We know what he’s been through to get to where he’s at and we know that we can do it, too. We feed off each other.”
Alta Badia is where Radamus earned his first World Cup points three years ago.
“Everyone will tell you this is the best GS hill. So I treat it almost as a religious experience coming here,” he said. “You got to pay tribute to the hill and so I always want to come here and really execute, have a good run and do it justice.
“If I was to design a GS, I would design something like this. It’s just perfect.”
Radamus was in the mix for a race won by Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen ahead of overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt.
“Starting between idols of mine and titans of the sport. … It’s definitely a cool feeling and I want to get back there more often and be able to compete with those guys, because I feel that I can,” Radamus said.
He can aim for a new career best in another GS scheduled for the Gran Risa on Monday.
Bode Miller (2002) and Ted Ligety (2010 and 2012) each posted memorable wins on the Gran Risa. Another U.S. skier who performed well recently in Badia is Tommy Ford, who finished fifth in 2018 and 2020.
“Over my time training with Ted and racing alongside him he gave us a lot of wisdom on this hill and expertise,” Radamus said. “We have Tommy hanging around right now. He’s getting back from injury. So we use him as a huge resource for knowledge, because he’s basically mastered this hill as well.”
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