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American River Radamus Narrowly Misses Podium In His Olympic Debut

The young gun with the zebra-dyed hair brought all the fun, and then some, to Saturday's Olympic giant slalom.

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Remember the name River Radamus.

He’s the guy with zebra-dyed hair and a swashbuckling skiing style that will make you go “how does he do that?” His fourth place in the Olympic Men’s Giant Slalom on Sunday also showed the world he’s the real deal.

“It’s bringing the fun,” he said of his colorful locks between runs. “I just want to give everything and make sure that I enjoy the ride. The hair and everything else is just a part of that.”

Switzerland’s young phenom, Marco Odermatt, managed to conquer high pre-race expectations, early disappointment in last week’s events, and a nail-biting, bone-rattling second run to take his first Olympic title.

“I really risked everything in the second run because I wanted not just the medal, I wanted the gold medal,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Related: Check out the highlights from week 1 of the Beijing Winter Games

Odermatt was the odds-on favorite going into Sunday. He had won all but one World Cup GS race this winter and finished second in the other. The 24-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise to World Cup stardom over the past few seasons and Olympic gold almost seemed like an inevitability.

It was a day unlike any other we’ve seen so far at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center. Record-setting snowfall deposited several inches of fresh snow on the venue, and race crews worked feverishly throughout the day to clear the track. The falling snow made for a challenging and bumpy mix of hard snow close to the gates with patches of softer snow in-between, causing 40 of the field’s 85 starters to not cross the finish line.

Beijing Olympics snow removal
Olympic officials and crew got creative with snow removal techniques after the Yanqing venues saw unprecedented snowfall on Saturday, Feb. 12. (Photo: An Lingjun/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)

Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec nearly stole the whole show. He sat in eighth after the first run and clawed back from a deficit of 0.78 seconds to take silver, just 0.19 seconds behind Odermatt.

“After the first run I said maybe it’s over, I don’t have any more chance,” he shared. “But my second run was really good. I know [my family and friends] are celebrating right now. It’s in the middle of the night [in Slovenia] but it doesn’t matter right now.”

The podium was rounded out by reigning World GS Champion, France’s Mathieu Faivre, in third.

Radamus sat in ninth after the first run and attacked the aptly-named “Ice River” slope with skiing reminiscent of American legend and childhood idol Ted Ligety to finish just off the podium in his first Olympics.

“Hi everyone at home,” the 24 year old said in the finish, waving to the camera. “I hope I made y’all proud.”

First turning heads with three gold medals at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games, Radamus backed that up with a pair of World Junior Championship titles three years later and has been working his way up the World Cup ranks ever since.

Although a career best in elite competition, Radamus still felt the sting of missing out on an Olympic medal in fourth.

“It’s tough to swallow right now for sure, but I know in my heart that I did everything I could to prepare for today, I couldn’t have asked for more,” he added after the race. “I could have hoped for more, but I’m really proud of my work today and throughout the season, so I’ll take pride in this result and carry it forward.”

Fellow American Tommy Ford also made a triumphant return to racing in 12th after suffering a badly broken leg in January of 2021. The 32-year-old veteran had not raced since his injury.

“It was like riding a bike,” laughed Ford.

The other two American starters, super-G silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Luke Winters, did not finish their first runs.