River Radamus in the points again, building case for World Championships in Italy
Big weekend for local in many ways
River Radamus is getting boring — in a good way.
Having watched teammate Tommy Ford go down in nasty crash, Radamus put together two more solid runs, finishing 20th in Saturday’s men’s World Cup giant slalom. On the heels of an 18th-place showing on Friday, again in GS, that makes for a darn big weekend for the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail product.
Coming into the 2020-21 World Cup season, Radamus had only made one flip in GS in 16 races. So far this season, the kid is 4-for-6 on that count. That’s big progress for any young racer on his or her World Cup journey.
Strong skiing from the fearless River Radamus, who goes into fifth place. He waves at the camera in the finish and says "Love you Tommy." ❤️— U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team (@usskiteam) January 9, 2021
According to the U.S. Ski Team’s Twitter feed, Radamus completed his second run and then said “Love you Tommy” to the camera in the finish area.
Naturally, Radamus and the rest of the squad were devastated over Ford’s crash — the U.S. Ski Team later revealed that Ford sustained head, neck and left-knee injuries, and the footage seems to indicate a possibility of the Oregonian’s season being in doubt.
Ford has been one of Radamus’ mentors on the squad. Radamus arrived on the team with great acclaim on the heels of three gold medals in the Youth Olympic Games back in 2017. Then 19 years old and now 22, not surprisingly, Radamus did not find immediate success on the World Cup.
Radamus has found inspiration in the struggles and eventual triumphs of Ford. After a lengthy career of methodically working up the giant slalom ranks, Ford finally got his first World Cup win at Beaver Creek in 2019 and was on a roll this year, sitting fifth in the world in the discipline’s points.
In an interview last month with the Olympic Channel, Radamus said, “Tommy has been a very, very good skier for a long time and everybody has believed in him. But for him to finally break through and hit two podiums last year was amazing.
“And so to see that sort of path and watch him, you know, have his struggles, have his defeats and keep believing and keep performing and keep training and be able to reach it later in his career is pretty amazing.”
The elephant in the room
It’s been a terrific year for members of the U.S. Ski Team not named Mikaela Shiffrin. (She’s on her own planet.) Breezy Johnson finished third for the third straight outing in Saturday’s women’s World Cup downhill in Austria. Ryan Cochran-Siegle has been a revelation for the gents with a super-G win and a downhill podium last month and others like Radamus have been making their moves up the points’ list in their respective disciplines.
One of the many reasons American ski racing fans were so excited about this was the prospect of seeing everyone at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina, Italy, next month.
Again, we don’t know the degree of Ford’s injury, but leaving a course on helicopter, even if it’s precautionary, puts his status in doubt for worlds, and this brings up the subject everyone’s trying to avoid.
Radamus’ chances of making the worlds team in GS just went from being on the bubble to a whole lot more likely with Ford’s crash.
We will stipulate that no one, especially Radamus, wanted it to happen this way. Everyone on the U.S. Ski Team wants Ford to compete and succeed — Tommy is a medal contender in World Cups and worlds when healthy.
The general rule is a ski team gets four spots for worlds in each race. The U.S. Ski Team traditionally uses a variety of criteria, including World Cup points, top 10 finishes, World Cup wins and a little bit of discretion.
And, yes, in a strange quirk of scheduling, Saturday was the final World Cup GS before Cortina.
Ford, if healthy, is an automatic selection, given his position in the world in GS points and that he has a World Cup win and a podium in the last 15 months.
Despite his recent struggles, Ted Ligety is on the team as well. “Shred” may be 35th in the world and has only finished in the points twice in six outings this season, but he’s Ted Freaking Ligety who’s won an American record 24 giant slaloms and five worlds golds, including three in GS (2011, 2013 and 2015). This is the discretion part of the process.
That leaves two spots for the rest of the team. Cochran-Siegle and Radamus are tied for 27th in the GS points after Saturday, but RCS likely gets the nod over the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail product based on experience. And that leaves Radamus in the fourth spot, fending off all challenges from the rest of the squad.
One never wants to be No. 4 on a four-member hypothetical team leading up to worlds.There are too many variables there.
If Ford is out, the pecking order changes with everyone moving up a spot, leaving Radamus as No. 3 with his contemporaries on the team fighting it out for the last berth.
Radamus is doubtless rooting for Ford’s speedy recovery because he wants to make worlds on the merits without any doubts. But it’s a reality of sport that Radamus’ world may have changed significantly this weekend.
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