Nothing draws a crowd quite like the men’s giant slalom. At the base of the Hafjell course, a large crowd has gathered to watch 60 athletes burning down the mountain in search of gold-medal glory. A DJ plays party tunes. Cowbells clang with every completed run.
For River Radamus, of the USA, stardom is a sensation he might have to grow accustomed to – and quickly. Having already taken gold in both the Super-G and the alpine combined this week, he swept into first place after two runs on the Hafjell course, with times of one minute 17.16 seconds and 1:17.89, for a total of 2:35.05. The performance put him ahead of Yohei Koyama of Japan in silver, and bronze medallist Anton Grammel of Germany.
“It’s surreal,” Radamus said. “I can’t compare it to anything. I’ve never had success at this scale. There are 60 competitors out there and anyone could have won it.
“I went to Vancouver [for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games] and watched the slalom and the GS [giant slalom]. There’s nothing like this competition, people representing their nations at the highest level of the sport. It’s a really great atmosphere.”
In demand: River Radamus has been a popular figure in Lillehammer. Photo: YIS / IOC Al Tielemans
Radamus has said he started his skiing career before he could walk. As a two-year-old, while his dad was coaching the US ski team, he was slapped into a pair of skis and “scooted around the hill”.
This early start has paid dividends, though the buzz of winning has hardly diminished over the years.
“It’s a huge adrenaline rush [to win at the Youth Olympic Games],” he said. “There’s a moment of waiting when you finish, when the board’s down the hill, and a moment of anticipation where you think, ‘That run was pretty good, right? I have no idea of how I did though…’.
“Then you look around the corner and you see the green light [that shows you are in first place]. It’s such a rush.”
Radamus is under no illusion as to the level of support his parents have given him during his formative years. One of his medals, he said, is going to his mum. “She came out for the race today,” he said. “It’s great to see her here and have her support me.”
Now he has his eye on a clean sweep, with his final appearance in the Winter YOG looming in the men’s slalom on Friday (19 February). Gathering a clean sweep in Lillehammer is at the “back of my mind”, he admitted.
It’s at the back of his rivals’ minds, too.
““I talk to him and he said that he is really skiing good in slalom,” Italian alpine skier Pietro Canzio said. “But we really have to get faster than him because three is OK, but four? No.”
Written by YIS / IOC MATT ALLEN
Matt Allen is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Author of the international bestselling Usain Bolt autobiography Faster Than Lightning, Matt is a sports and music journalist whose articles have appeared in publications such as Total Sport, Esquire, Men’s Health, GQ and FourFourTwo. Photo: Jon Buckle