February 16, 2012 – Russell Currier, 24, a rising star on the US men’s biathlon squad, surprised even himself when he scored a career-best sixth place in the 10k sprint at the IBU Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic last month – read more HERE. He then proved he could do it again when he matched his sixth place in Kontiolahti, Finland last weekend. It was an historic day for the entire US squad, with the team’s best showing ever in a World Cup. Lowell Bailey finished 5th, while Tim Burke placed 13th and Jay Hakkinen was 16th. SkiTrax caught up with Currier after his breakthrough results and here’s what he had to say:
The coaches and I had no idea what to expect out of the sprint race on Saturday. I came down with what I think was food poisoning the day before and wasn’t even sure if I should race. I didn’t feel 100% Saturday morning, but I was close, and with the way shooting and ski speed had been going lately, I made the call and decided to go for it.
I like the course profile in Kontiolahti. It’s very basic and has a good variety of climbs. The -15 Celsius weather wasn’t as fun. I’m not a fan of racing in a buff or with tape on the face, but I didn’t have much choice in the sprint race.
My shooting has felt good the past couple of weeks. Our coach and I worked on bringing my range times down a little bit. I was able to shave off a few seconds for the race on Saturday, which ended up making a huge difference.
Ski speed felt decent considering I had to duck out of the mixed relay the day before. I don’t know what food it was, but this is not the first time this has happened to me in Finland. I didn’t have anyone that I knew was fast around me. All I could do was break the course down into increments and do each one as best as I could. On the last loop, I only had a few splits. Hearing that I was in the top eight helped get me through the last flat section before the finish.
The whole race felt surreal. My goal was to get in the top 40. With the way I had been feeling the day before, I was just hoping to make the top 60 for a pursuit start. The whole day for the men’s team was a tremendous success. It was officially the best day the US men had ever had. I was honored to be able to say that I was part of it.
The pursuit was another good day for our team. I moved down to 23rd, but it was still a good race for me. Prone was decent with one in each stage. I would have liked to have shot a little better in standing, but I wasn’t the only one struggling with shooting that day. Pacing and tactics were much more professional in Sunday’s pursuit than the pursuit in Nove Mesto. My legs felt a little heavy and stiff so I was very surprised when I found out afterwords that I had the 10th fastest ski time.
The IBU Cup field is more competitive than ever. You could say the same thing about the WC field to, but the IBU field has taken the biggest increase the past couple of years. Biathlon is such an up and down sport it’s not always fair to compare results from day to day. I can finish a race and give a better analysis of how it went than the result list can. I’ve had a few mediocre days on the IBU and WCup circuit this season. The sprint race in Kontiolahti was just one of the very good days.
Both races this past weekend were a confidence boost for the athletes and staff. We’re not working any less hard or professionally than the Euros. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up on the result list. The weekend was simply a good example of this and our organization as a team.