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American ski racer River Radamus making waves on the slopes

March 8, 2019
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FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017 file photo, River Radamus, of the United States, makes his debut World Cup start in men's giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo. Ski racer Radamus has a name that screams summer and a game that's meant for winter. The 21-year-old American recently won two gold medals at the world junior championships in Italy. He's part of the next wave of American racers ready to make some waves. (Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP, File)

His name, River Radamus , almost conjures up images of summer. His game is most certainly meant for winter.

Although, the 21-year-old ski racer from Edwards, Colorado, joked: “If it doesn’t pan out in skiing, maybe I can go to kayaking?”

Only thing — his passion for water, in its frozen form , runs too deep. Radamus grew up with a dad coaching the U.S. ski team’s developmental squad and with posters of Olympic champions Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn adorning his bedroom wall. Radamus is making a big splash this season as he recently captured two gold medals at the world junior championships.

No pressure to become the next big name. After all, he was named River for a reason — to stand out.

“I do have a name that’s unique,” Radamus said in a phone interview before a World Cup race this weekend in Slovenia. “So it is a name for headlines.”

Radamus was raised in the same area as Mikaela Shiffrin, where school field trips in the winter months weren’t necessarily to museums but to the slopes to catch a glimpse of racing. His father, Aldo, served in different roles with the U.S. ski team and a young River Radamus was actually at the 2002 world junior championships in Italy when Steven Nyman captured a slalom crown. After Radamus earned a pair of gold medals of his own at world juniors in February, Nyman posted on Instagram a picture of Radamus watching the action on the shoulders of his mom . Nyman’s post read: “17 years later he won..twice!”

Only 4 at the time, Radamus doesn’t remember much from that day. But he does recall a feeling.

“That definitely inspired me to pursue ski racing in a very real way to where I am today,” Radamus said .

This season began a little bit bumpy for Radamus — not finishing a World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland, then winding up 54th during a super-G at home in Beaver Creek, Colorado. But it began to change when he scored his first World Cup points in Alta Badia, Italy, when he took 24th in a giant slalom.

More success: A win on the Nor-Am Cup circuit, which is the training ground for young racers.

It all came to together at world juniors, when Radamus won gold in the super-G. Four days later, he took another title in the giant slalom.

That was part of a banner week for the U.S. squad, with Ben Ritchie taking second in the slalom. In addition, the squad of Radamus, Ritchie, AJ Hurt and Katie Hensien took silver in the team event. The Americans elected to not field a squad for the team event at the world championships in Are, Sweden, so the younger athletes such as Radamus could focus on juniors.

“World juniors is an important benchmarking event for us, both for individual athletes on the way to the World Cup and to show our depth as a nation,” U.S. ski & snowboard Alpine development director Chip Knight said.

For his success at world juniors, Radamus gives an assist to the team’s mantra of “Remember Why.” Each time workouts got hard over the offseason, that’s what popped into his mind.

“Just trying to remember why we’re putting in the hard work and all that,” Radamus said.

This did the trick, too — the movie “Miracle.” More specifically, the speech delivered by actor Kurt Russell as he portrayed U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks. In what’s become a tradition, Radamus and his teammates sit in a dark room and listen to the motivational speech before playing the heavily-favored Soviet squad.

“We look at ourselves as underdogs and I think that that’s sort of the energy we had all through the world juniors,” Radamus said.

With Vonn’s retirement following that of Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso in recent years, and with Ligety and Nyman nearing the end of their careers, the U.S. team is searching for new talent to step in — someone to join the likes of Shiffrin, who recently clinched her third straight overall World Cup title.

“Those are definitely some really big shoes to fill,” Radamus said. “I looked up to Ted, Bode, Steve, Daron (Rahlves) and all of them. They made (winning) seem real and possible. It gave you the belief of, ‘If those Americans can do it, why can’t I?’”

His plan for the rest of the season is to race in Slovenia this weekend, followed by World Cup finals in Andorra. Then, home for the U.S. Alpine championships.

After that, it’s off to Nicaragua with his family for some surfing.

Only fitting after making big waves on the slopes.

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