BEIJING — The giant slalom course at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 is called the Ice River. And River Radamus did it justice.
As snow fell heavily at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Center, covering the course in several inches of fluff, the 24-year-old from Colorado finished fourth in the men’s giant slalom.
“It's pretty cool, it's bittersweet to be sure,” said Radamus, wearing no hat or helmet over his zebra-striped hair. “I'm really proud of my effort. I'm proud of how I performed today. Obviously, you always want more, but I couldn't have expected any more coming into today. So it's really special.”
Behind him, Tommy Ford — in his first race since a bad crash and devastating injuries in January 2021 — got his skis back under him and took 12th. It’s his best result in three Olympic Games.
“I didn't have a whole lot [of expectations] running into it, but I'm stoked on River getting fourth!” said Ford, who was one of the world’s top-ranked GS skiers until his crash last year.
The 2022 GS Olympic podium was filled by three first-time Olympic medalists. Marco Odermatt, who is currently leading the overall world cup standings and has all but dominated GS racing this year, won the giant slalom gold. The 24-year-old Swiss skier clocked a two-run time of 2:09.35.
Behind Odermatt, Slovenia’s Zan Kranjac claimed silver. The three-time Olympian skied the fastest second run right after Radamus came down and finished in 2:09.54. Mathieu Faivre from France, also competing in his third Olympics, took the bronze in 2:10. 69.
For Radamus, a medal looked closer than he expected as he watched four skiers who had finished higher than him first run either ski out or make mistakes. But the American felt like his second run was “sloppy” (even though it was the fifth fastest second run).
“With my run, I didn't feel like I deserved a medal necessarily today,” he said. “But the more people I moved up past, the more real it seemed.”
“Marco's the best GS skier in the world right now,” he added. “He deserved to win today. So I wasn't holding my breath to be sure.”
Although fourth is a tough place to finish in the Olympic Games, it will likely introduce Radamus to fans back home.
He was thinking about those Team USA fans as he raced today.
A few days ago, 1994 Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe sent a video to the guys skiing on the 2022 U.S. Olympic team. In the video, Moe reminded the team what the Olympic Games means to Americans back home, particularly young kids, and how the Games allow kids to dream that anything is possible.
“That was something I was thinking about a lot this morning, that I'm doing this for more than just myself,” said Radamus. “I'm doing this for that eight-year-old kid [like me who was] once watching [Olympic gold medalist] Ted Ligety on the TV way back when.”
Radamus was not just any eight-year-old kid with ski-racing dreams. The son of two world-class ski coaches, he was on skis before he could walk. It was hard for the Radamuses to carry both little River and ski-racing equipment, so they pushed him around on skis.
He progressed rapidly in the sport and in 2016, made the U.S. team competing at the Youth Olympic Winter Games. In Lillehammer, Norway, Radamus won the giant slalom, super-G, and super combined titles — becoming the first alpine skier to ever win a trifecta of gold medals at the Youth Olympic Winter Games.
It was his first taste of international competition, and he considered it his coming out party. The experience helped him believed that he could make it in ski racing.
Over the next three years, Radamus won medals at the junior world championships, including two gold medals in 2019 in GS and super-G. He also started scoring his first world cup points while still in his teens.
On social media, Radamus is perhaps better known for his hair than his results.