On Tuesday, River Radamus executed his plan and added a new title to his resume: U.S. national champion in giant slalom.
Knowing Ryan Cochran-Siegle was the most experienced athlete and favorite to win the GS title, Radamus went into the national championship at Copper Mountain with tempered expectations. He knew he had to ski his best to win among a stacked lineup of competitors.
The weeklong event replaces the 2020 U.S. Alpine Championships, which were scheduled for last March in Panorama and Aspen. Both events were cancelled due to COVID-19.
After the first run, Radamus came down in third place, .28 seconds behind RCS and Patrick Kenney of UNH. Sitting at the bottom, Radamus knew he was close to Cochran-Siegle and had a shot going into the second run. He reflected on the missed opportunities and made a plan going into the same course for the second run.
“There were a couple of places I wanted to line up,” said Radamus. “I gave myself a little bit more space coming onto the big pitch, and I think it was really tricky because of the rut that was present. It was just about committing to my line, going deep, and skiing through it strong. I was able to do that better than most today.”
Radamus capitalized and finished atop the podium by a tenth of a second over RCS. Kenney hung on to third position, a half-second back.
Building on experience
Having joined the National Training Group at age 15, Radamus, now 22, has a long history with the U.S. Ski Team. For the last three years, he has worked his way through NorAms, world juniors, and World Cups. With his sights set on excelling in GS, he has adapted his mentality to help take on the toughest competition in the world.
Last year was not the season Radamus had hoped for. At the end of the season he sat down to evaluate what went wrong and made an effort to take the time away from skiing to work on his mental and physical training.
Radamus was naturally a good skier from an early age. He spent much of his childhood on snow while both his parents coached ski racing. However, his natural gift came with consequences: He didn’t always do the things his competitors had committed themselves to do, such as spending extra time in the gym or working on the mental game. While Radamus has been hesitant to work on his mental game in the past, he has now dedicated himself to a mental strategy that would prepare him to execute on race day this season.
“I’m grateful for how last season went because it pushed me to make changes I didn’t want to make before,” said Radamus. “Once I got back in snow I already felt like I was in a better position as far as my foundation, and I was able to accelerate the changes on snow I wanted to see.”
When Radamus approaches race day, he tries to fall back on muscle memory and trust that he just has to execute his tactics. After accelerating his ski progression and physical fitness over the summer, the Colorado native is ready to forget about the pressure of skiing and focus on himself.
“I used to base everything off of training times, but now I’ve realized how the older guys approach it,” said Radamus. “They focus first and foremost on what they are trying to work on. They occasionally push themselves in training but only at the appropriate time. I am learning as I become a more mature athlete when is the appropriate time to go race and when is the appropriate time to get stuff done.”
Going into the World Cup circuit Radamus knows there is no reason for him to ski safe or conservative with another 20 racers behind him waiting for him to make a mistake. In the past he has tried to forget about points, scoring, and results so he could focus on advancing his skiing to the next level. Radamus knows that, in order to excel this season, he must ski fearless and leave everything possible out on the course.
“My skiing is feeling pretty solid,” said Radamus. “It’s taken me a little bit longer than I would have hoped, but I feel like I am finally starting to come around and find my rhythm going into the World Cup tour.”
While Radamus will primarily focus on the GS World Cup schedule this year, he will compete in the downhill, super G, and potentially the slalom at U.S. nationals later this week. Radamus is a firm believer that whether skiing slalom, GS, or super G, he can take the fundamentals from each event to make him a more adaptable skier.
U.S. Alpine National Championships – Men’s GS – Nov. 17, 2020