#YOGJourney: YOG star River Radamus ready to race against the world’s best
US Alpine ski racer River Radamus is both amped and focused for his first full season on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit, just three winters after his record-setting gold medal haul at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lillehammer 2016.
River Radamus holds the distinction of being the first and only skier or snowboarder to win three individual gold medals at the YOG. Now aged 20, two years ago he stormed to a hat-trick of victories in the super-G, combined and giant slalom on the Olympic slopes of Hafjell, the same mountain that hosted races at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994.
“It’s been really surreal, and there’s nothing I can compare it to,” Radamus said, shortly after winning his third gold medal in Lillehammer. “It’s something that will stick with me forever.”
While Radamus is certainly proud of his accomplishments at the YOG, he doesn’t want it to be a career-defining moment, rather using it as a catalyst for a future prosperous career. The young US Ski Team racer has continued to improve upon his performances in Lillehammer, winning silver medals at both the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships and the NorAm overall title last season.
Radamus had his first taste of World Cup action last December in Beaver Creek, Colorado; however he will ski a full programme of races this winter across multiple disciplines, competing throughout Europe from December until March.
Along with team members such as close friend and training partner Luke Winters – also in his inaugural season on the World Cup tour – Radamus recently completed more than a month of training camps and pre-season skiing in Austria, Norway and Finland, followed by his season-opening slalom race in Levi.
How did pre-season training with the team go for you?
“It's been awesome training up with the World Cup guys. I think the best part is probably that they have so much knowledge and experience to pass down because they're so old! Seriously though, a lot of these guys were idols of mine when I was a kid. I've got posters of them on my walls. Getting to train alongside them and getting to know them, I've come to learn that they are better even than my idolised versions of them. It's just an awesome group of guys who only want each other to succeed, and hold each other accountable to what we think we’re capable of.”
What are your hopes, expectations and outlook for the season ahead?
“It’s exciting because it’s my first full season on tour and for Luke too. We’re definitely in a different league here. We’re just trying to learn as much as we can this year, so that we are in the best position to start hitting top thirties and then dominating. We’re going to be in Europe from December until mid-March. It’s tougher for us than some of our European rivals because we’re further away from home. It’s going to be full on; we’re really throwing ourselves in at the deep end.”
How special was it to win those three YOG gold medals in Lillehammer?
“Lillehammer was my first exposure to international racing, but I proved to myself that I could do this and have the potential to make it a viable career. It motivates me to make sure that the success there is a footnote in my career and not the defining part. I want to use it as a stepping-stone and continue to improve. I want to have a bigger portfolio than just that, so it is motivating me in that way.”
What was the overall YOG experience like?
“It was a really special time, getting to meet elite athletes from all over the world and being exposed to that kind of environment. It motivated me to want to go and race in the Olympic Games one day, for sure. I also celebrated my 18th birthday there, so that was unreal – a pretty special start to a very special week.”
How much did YOG success help in your career development?
“It gave me faith in my own skiing. Going into the Games, I had one of the worst seasons of my career. I couldn’t finish races and was struggling with self-confidence. Coming out of the YOG, I realised obviously it was not going to be easy, but I could do this and pursue racing on the World Cup. “
Do you aspire to also ski downhill and super-G races to become a complete all-around skier?
“I just have to find the right situations for it. Right now, my strengths are technical skiing. I need to improve my true speed skills, like gliding and that sort of thing. I do aspire to be an all-around skier and tackle everything on the slope.”
What is it going to take to make it to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022?
“It’s absolutely what I’m working towards right now. That is the dream. It is going to take a lot of patience. Obviously, the hard work and commitment, that’s a given. For me, it’s the patience to know what the long-term plan is and where I am so I have more of an objective view of the whole situation.”