LILLEHAMMER, Norway – The USA’s River Radamus, who learned to ski in his native Colorado before he could even walk, has already become a magnet for autograph hunters at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
The US racer, who turned 18 on the day of the opening ceremony, picked up his second gold medal of the Games on Sunday when he won the men’s alpine skiing combined event following Saturday’s victory in the men’s super-G.
Local Norwegian children were thrusting autograph books into his hand after he lead the combined event by 0.89 seconds after a run of 1 minute 11.15 seconds in the morning’s super-G. Radamus then had to show nerve to claim the gold after a tight finish in the afternoon slalom.
The US skier clocked the seventh-fastest slalom time of 41.72 seconds for an overall 1:52.87, just 0.07 seconds ahead of Austrian Manuel Traninger (1:52.94) and Italy’s bronze medallist Pietro Canzio (1:53.65.). The three racers had also shared the medals in the men’s super-G with Canzio taking the silver ahead of Traninger.
But the spotlight has been firmly focused on their US rival.
“I came here with no expectations and I just wanted to compete. I’ve had two really amazing results,” Radamus said. “I had a really great first run and built up a solid lead but I knew the competition would be fierce in the slalom. I had a few bobbles but I was able to eke out the win.”
Swiss Aline Danioth, bronze medallist in Saturday’s ladies’ super-G, won the ladies’ combined after an impressive slalom run.
After trailing leader and compatriot Melanie Meillard by 0.15 seconds after the super-G, Danioth clocked the fastest slalom time of 42.15 to take the gold with an overall 1:55.74. Meillard held on for silver (1:56.12) with German Katrin Hirtl-Stanggassinger third (1:57.25). Austrian Nadine Fest, the individual super-G, champion finished fourth (1:57.35).
The two Radamus medals are major milestones of a skiing life that began in Vail when his parents, who are both skiing coaches, popped him into a pair of ski boots for the first time at the age of nine months.
“One of the cool things is that River skied before he could walk,” US coach Chad Wolk said. “He was not strong enough to support himself until he put ski boots on. He was nine months old when he first skied and he has been skiing ever since. He is a phenomenal person and a phenomenal athlete who loves this sport to the core. ”
“He was nine months old when he first skied and he has been skiing ever since. He is a phenomenal person and a phenomenal athlete who loves this sport to the core.”
Wolk believes Radamus has the ability to step up into senior international skiing and qualify for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, largely because of his attention to every detail of racing.
“He is doing a really good job of just focusing on the task in hand. He is a thinker,” the coach said. “It’s all a puzzle and he looks to put it all together. Every turn he takes is different. He enjoys the sport more than anybody I have seen in a long time. It’s a game to him and he wants to go out and play.
“I believe in him. He can go all the way to Pyeongchang. He has just got to keep moving forward and the sky’s the limit.”
Radamus is less keen to make confident predictions about the future, however.
“It is kind of the coaches to say that but a lot can happen in two years,“ he said. “ I’ll just keep doing my thing. I don’t have any expectations about the future. I just keeping having fun.“
Asked about his unusual first name of River, he added: “My parents are not solid on that. I think they liked the alliteration. They thought it was a cool name.”