PRESQUE ISLE — Kamran Husain skied fast, but not so fast that he didn’t notice the fans.
Bundled tightly in the bleachers at the east end of the course at the Nordic Heritage Center on Friday, the fans were there to cheer on Husain, a sophomore at Fort Kent Community High School
They helped him gather his thoughts and get back into the youth men’s 7.5-kilometer sprint in the IBU Biathlon Youth/Junior World Championships being held here. “They helped me come back into my standing and get back into it,’’ said the 16-year-old Husain, who missed four of his first five shots. “Otherwise, I was just so mad that I missed so many.’’
His experience was similar to that of one Russell Currier back in 2006 in these same junior world championships at this same venue. Currier, the 26-year-old from Stockholm who competed on the U.S. Biathlon team in the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, talked about the local support he received.
“I remember some high school friends taking their shirts off during one of the races to spell ‘Go Russell,’ if my memory serves me right,’’ said Currier in an email. “The last time (world juniors) were in Presque Isle it made for a great example of what racing in your local area can feel like.
“We don’t really have that feeling over here (in Europe, where most of the international biathlons are held). It’s nice to see the fans back home get a chance to see the racing scene first hand for a change.’’
Currier, in Bavaria now before heading to Slovenia for the resumption of the World Cup tour, is coming off his first Olympic experience. He called it a shock “in regards to the amount of busy time we had to deal with. I should have expected this, but for some reason I thought we would have a lot more free time on our hands. I also didn’t expect as much support to come in from back home. The races aren’t any different from the world champs we do every year, but the amount of extra attention the (Olympic Winter Games) receives was even more than expected.’’
Currier, the only Maine competitor in this winter’s Olympics, finished 61st in the sprint, 50th in the individual, then had a rough day in the relay, where the U.S. finished 16th. Currier, skiing the second leg, hit only two of his eight shots and a strong start by Lowell Bailey was wasted. Currier took over in fourth, but had to ski three penalty laps for his misses.
“The last race was pretty rough,’’ he said. “After almost a week it still makes me cringe just to think about it. The relay was my last chance to redeem myself at the OWGs. Unfortunately the opposite occurred. We were in a good spot. Fourth, about 10 seconds off the lead. One penalty is too many in relays. I had three.’’
There are those who say Husain may be following Currier’s path. Like Currier, he is a local boy training at the Maine Winter Sport Center.
And his result in his first international race – a 43rd in Friday’s youth men’s sprint – is strikingly close to Currier’s junior race in 2006. Currier finished 37th in the sprint, 43rd in the pursuit (which Husain races in Sunday) and 47th in the individual.
“From a personality standpoint, there are differences between the two,’’ said Seth Hubbard, the biathlon coach at Maine Winter Sports Center. “But one of the big things it takes for someone to get to the level Russell has is a willingness to do the work. And from that aspect, there are distinct similarities.
“Kamran really takes to heart the things we ask him to work on. It’s one thing to go to camps and work with coaches and get information.
“Where these athletes start to make big gains is when it comes to the execution of the stuff. That’s where these guys really work at it.’’
Husain knows who Currier is. And he certainly is following his lead.
“I’d love to be somewhere near where Russell is in a few years,’’ he said. “This program will provide me with the opportunity to be hopefully near him some day.’’
Max Cobb, the CEO and president of U.S. Biathlon, knows both Currier and Husain well.
He wishes Currier had a better first Olympics experience – “It’s a shame because in training (his shooting) was really looking good,’’ he said – but sees better days ahead.
“Unfortunately he didn’t have his best days on the range at Sochi,’’ he said. “But I still see World Cup performances out of him. He’s one of the few we’ve had that have ever had a top-six performance on the World Cup. And it’s just a matter of time before we see it again.’’
And for Husain, Cobb said, “I think the progress that Kamran has made has been really, really impressive. Hats off to him for making this team as a 16-year-old and doing as well as he did. Obviously he’s still very young, but it’s a nice brick in the road on the way to achieving goals, to have podiums on the youth or junior level and eventually go on to World Cup or Olympic teams.’’
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: