February 4

Aroostook County biathlete holds Maine’s Olympic hopes

Russell Currier is the sole native son in the Winter Games in Sochi.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM — Growing up, there was never any indication that Russell Currier would become a world-class athlete.

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Russell Currier competes at the Biathlon World Championships in Ostersund, Sweden, in 2008. Currier discovered his passion for the sport in junior high school.

2008 File Photo/Reuters

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Russell Currier reacts at the finish line after he came in sixth at the World Cup biathlon men’s 10 km sprint event in Nove Mesto na Morave on Jan. 14, 2012.

2012 File Photo/Reuters

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He wasn’t overly athletic. He liked playing video games. He loved watching “The Simpsons.”

“They were on the Canadian channel after school,” said his older sister Lauren Walker. “So we taped them. Then one time, for two days in a row, we sat in the living room and watched hours and hours of ‘The Simpsons.’

“Finally our dad came in and told us to get outside.”

Good thing. Otherwise, Currier might not be carrying Maine’s hope for an Olympic medal in Sochi, Russia.

The 26-year-old Currier, a 2006 graduate of Caribou High School, is making his first appearance in the Winter Olympics, competing for the U.S. men’s biathlon team. He is the only Maine native to earn a berth in the Sochi Olympics.

Currier will compete in at least three events: the 10-kilometer sprint on Feb. 8 (9:30 a.m. EST), the 12.5-kilometer pursuit on Feb. 10 (10 a.m.) and the 20-kilometer individual on Feb. 13 (9 a.m.). He could be added to the relay.

Folks in Aroostook County are understandably proud.

“Oh yeah,” said Bob Sprague, a retired ski coach and teacher from Caribou High. “He isn’t just this kid from Stockholm, he isn’t just this kid who went to Caribou, he isn’t just this kid from The County. He’s from Maine. It’s just inspiring to see what he has done.”

Go anywhere in the small towns that surround his hometown and you’re bound to run into someone who knows Currier, or his family. They were so excited when he was named to the Olympic team that people in Stockholm and surrounding towns held a dinner to raise money so his parents, Chris and Debbie, could go to Sochi and watch him in the Olympics. The dinner raised nearly $6,000, with total donations rising to nearly $10,000.

People are planning “watch parties” to see him compete.

“Every town around here claims him,” said his father, Chris Currier, from their toasty warm home on a subzero morning. “Caribou, Fort Kent, New Sweden, everywhere. They all claim him.”

Why not? His journey from a town of fewer than 300 to a spot on the U.S. Olympic team has made Currier a role model for the children of Aroostook County and beyond.

“Well,” said Sprague, his voice cracking and eyes tearing at times as he spoke about Currier, “not just kids. Everyone. It’s like, if Russell can do that, well, I have my own goals. I want to be the best I can be. That’s what Russell has done.” 

‘ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE HAD A PASSION’

Biathlon is a sport that combines Nordic skiing with target shooting.

Currier was well versed in the second part of that equation before he ever got on skis. “By the time he was 4 or 5 he was hunting and fishing,” said Chris Currier. “It’s just in his genes, in his blood, I guess. He still looks forward to coming home for bird season and deer season.”

And then one day he was introduced to skis. The Maine Winter Sports Center, headquartered in Caribou with world-class training facilities in Fort Kent and Presque Isle, had just started its Healthy Hometowns program for towns across the state. Part of it includes ski rentals to local schools.

Currier was part of the first group of children at the Stockholm Elementary School to receive skis. Coaches put on clinics, teaching the students how to ski. He was in the fifth grade.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Chris and Debbie Currier pose in their home in front of bibs worn throughout the years by their son. In another room, Russell Currier’s medals hang from the arm of an exercise machine. The biathlete headed for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is markedly modest about his successes.

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Will Sweetser works with a ski team in Presque Isle last week. Sweetser helped train Currier when he was in the Maine Winter Sports Center’s program.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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A sign alerts motorists to the likelihood of roller skiers along a road in Presque Isle, where the Maine Winter Sports Center has a world-class training facility. Such signs are commonplace in Aroostook County, where Olympian biathlete Russell Currier was raised.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Medals that Russell Currier has won through his years competing as a biathlete.

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Bob Sprague, a retired ski coach and teacher in Caribou, walks near trails where he used to help train Russell Currier. “You watched him and you knew,” he said of Currier.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

 


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