Interesting day for the Currier family at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Chris and Debbie Currier left their hotel to watch son Russell compete in the 20-kilometer men’s biathlon race Thursday. Unfortunately, when they arrived at the gondola to take them to the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center, they couldn’t find their tickets. So they rushed back to the hotel, hoping they had left them there.
But the tickets weren’t there.
“What happened to them, we will never know,” said Debbie Currier in an email.
But they were able to get a ride back to the gondola, purchase tickets and get to the venue as the race began. They had to stand on the hill instead of sitting in the stadium, but they weren’t complaining – they were much closer to the course and got a nice close-up view of Russell as he competed. “We were able to cheer Russell on when he went by and we thought he looked strong and was doing well,” said Debbie Currier.
And Russell Currier had his best performance of the Olympics. He finished 50th in the field of 89 with a time of 55 minutes, 7.5 seconds. He had four misses (out of 20 shots), each miss adding one minute to his time.
The misses occurred on his first two shooting attempts, as he missed twice each time. He was a perfect 10-for-10 at the range his last two attempts.
“For me, it was OK,” said Currier, in a phone interview. “A lot of things went right. Unfortunately, some things didn’t.
“At this point, our sport is so competitive that you need a perfect day to have a good result.”
Still, it was an improvement over his first Olympic race, when he finished 61st in the 10K men’s sprint with a time of 26:58.5. He also had four misses in that race.
Currier had been concerned about the 20K race because it involved twice as much shooting (20 shots instead of 10), but he actually improved his percentage from 60 in the 10K to 80 percent in the 20K.
“It only takes one bad flinch to make you miss and add a minute to your time,” said Currier. “It’s really a matter of making five shots, instead of three, which I did my last two.”
France’s Martin Fourcade won his second gold medal of these Olympics, completing the course in 49:31.7, missing just one shot. He also won the 12.5K pursuit last Monday. Germany’s Erik Lesser won the silver medal in 49:43.9 (no misses) and Russia’s Evgeniy Garanichev took bronze in 50:06.2 (with one miss).
Lowell Bailey, from Lake Placid, N.Y., and, like Currier, a product of the Maine Winter Sports Center, had the best finish ever in U.S. men’s biathlon history. He took eighth in 50:57.4, missing just one shot. Currier said Bailey’s finish was easily the high point of the Games.
“We’re all stoked,” said Currier. “The whole staff is in a good mood. We’ve done our homework and it’s not out of the question to expect a result like that from any of us.”
And Currier knows what he has to do to get a result like that – become more consistent and shoot better. Two of the top 10 finishes had clean shooting, the other eight missed just one shot.
“The wind was calm all day,” said Currier. “I can’t use that as an excuse. The two misses in prone were just bad shots. The others too.”
And by missing the shots early, Currier said he knew he had a lot of time to make up.
“That just brings four minutes to your time,” he said. “I was able to bring it together. The second half of the race was fine.
“Long story short, I had two good stages of the race. I had great skis. I was just not able to put a whole race together.”
Bailey, meanwhile, was finally able to put a complete race together. He had finished 38th in the 10K and 26th in the pursuit.
“I feel a lot better than I did the last two races,” he said in a press release. “I was the most disappointed that I’ve ever been after the pursuit. I knew I could do better … I’ve spent the last two days working on skills and getting back to the fundamentals we’ve worked on for the last 20 years.”
Currier said he expects to next compete in the 4-by-7.5K relay on Feb. 22. That should give him a little more time to visit his parents – and enjoy the weather.
“It was good to see them, once we got the logistics worked out,” he said.
It was 55 on the course Thursday – warmer down in the valley – and that made for some interesting conditions. Currier said officials worked on the course all night after a Wednesday training run that he said “was awful.”
They spread salt on the course to help it flash-freeze and, Currier said, that made a big difference.
“Still, it was pretty chewed up at the end of the race,” he said. “Hopefully it’s going to cool down the next couple of days. It felt like April out there.
“This is supposed to be the Winter Olympics.”
Currier had hoped to finish in the top 40 but didn’t seem disappointed with his final spot.
“Again, for me, it was a decent race,” he said. “It wasn’t great but I did some good things.”
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]