Radamus Dons Snow Leopard Hairstyle, Snags Career-Best Sixth
It was another perfect day on the Rettenbach glacier, with the young River Radamus donning a new Chad Fleischer (U.S. Ski Team alumnus)-inspired “snow leopard” ‘do leading the charge with a career-best sixth-place under the sunshine in Soelden, Austria to kick off the highly-anticipated Olympic season.
A young American squad led by veteran and 2020 Bormio World Cup super-G victor Ryan Cochran-Siegle, including Radamus, Bridger Gile, and Global Racing’s George Steffey and Patrick Kenney (University of New Hampshire) took on the what is the longest, steepest, most sustained pitch of any FIS Ski World Cup giant slalom on the tour. For the young squad, it was a promising start, despite Radamus being the only one to qualify for the second run.
Veteran teammate Tommy Ford, who had a season-ending crash last year at Adelboden, Switzerland, sustaining knee and hand injuries and a concussion, posted a message of encouragement to his teammates on Instagram early Sunday morning. In the post, he said, “I miss my team and the cold mornings. Go team go! My knee is coming back. It has felt slow, but it hasn't even been a year.” Radamus replied to the message, saying “miss ya tommy❤️ i’ll try to send one for ya today.” And “send” he did!
Coming out of the gate bib 26, Radamus didn’t want to leave anything on the piste, taking risks left and right and making two incredible Bode Miller-esque recoveries in his first run, crossing the finish line in an incredible ninth place and setting himself up for a stellar second run. When asked by the media if he was trying to channel U.S. Ski Team alumnus and Olympic champion Miller, Radamus replied, “I wasn’t trying to imitate anyone…I was just trying to make it down, to be honest with you.” He continued, “I’m really trying to take that mentality—the fearless mentality—like Bode and a lot of guys from America have, so yeah—I’m really proud of the recoveries I had to make there. And I really hope to keep pushing the limit on the next run too.”
The margins were super-tight in this deep men’s giant slalom field, with Austria’s Roland Leitinger in leading the charge, followed by France’s Mathieu Faivre .19 seconds back, and rounded out by Swiss phenom Marco Odermatt, .21 seconds out. Radamus was .85 out father the first run, and knew he had to put it all out there in the second run in order to score a solid result. With yet another run that put fans on the edge of their seats with thrilling recoveries and solid skiing, Radamus skied down into the lead ahead of Norway’s Lucas Braathen by a slim margin of four-hundredths of a second. It looked as if his lead would hold for a while, as he sat in the leaderboard with a big smile on his face, donning his new snow leopard hairstyle.
In the end, Radamus—whose previous best was 14th last season in Bansko, Bulgaria—ended up an impressive career-best sixth place on the track that former teammate, hero, and mentor Ted Ligety won a record four times in the span of five years. Radamus was ecstatic with the result, saying, “I really felt like I’ve had a lot of races where I’ve done well the first run, and haven’t been able to execute the same way on second run…whether it’s conscious or unconscious, just backing off – so I really really tried to make sure I left it all out there and made sure I left no regrets on the table,” he said. “I made a couple of mistakes again, but I was pushing my limits again, and I’m happy with the performance. I felt like I’ve had the pace all summer, and with that it almost feels like more pressure because I had more expectations on myself to perform. So coming here and executing the way that I did gives me a lot of confidence rolling into the rest of the season…but at the end of the day I try to keep the mentality that I do everything I can to prepare, and I live with the results regardless. But this is an easier one to live with for sure.”
On the topic of his hair...which was turning many heads, Radamus shared, “The last three years I’ve done a special haircut for Soelden—I did a mullet bowl cut last year, and the year before I did it all blue and green…so I just like to do this little tradition of mine to change it up and get a new look going for the season.” He continued, “This year it’s inspired by past U.S. Ski Team speed legend Chad Fleischer, who used to have hair like this—the snow leopard—I wanted to carry that tradition forward, and carry that, sort of like, free spirit American-style forward.”
Cochran-Siegle, who suffered from a “minor broken neck”, when he crashed on the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbuehel, Austria last season, returned to competition for the first time in 275 days. He missed qualifying for the second run by a mere one hundredth of a second. In the sport of ski racing, missing the flip by a margin this tiny can be defeating, though Cochran-Siegle is putting it into perspective and knows there’s a long season ahead—in which he’ll focus on the speed events and less so on giant slalom.
“I thought I was skiing well, I was just holding on too much,” he said. “The conditions, and also the strength of every other skier here is really competitive, and I just needed to bring more on this run.”
Up next for the men’s and women’s U.S. Ski Team crew is a training block at U.S. Ski Team Speed and Tech Center at Copper Mountain, Colo., then a parallel World Cup event in Lech, Austria, before returning to the North American races on the World Cup tour.
Men’s giant slalom