Russell wins first FIS race
There’s only so many times a seasoned skier can finish second or third.
Heavenly Ski Foundation Alpine racer Oliver Russell broke through with his first International Ski Federation victory Sunday at Mount Bachelor, near Bend, Ore.
Russell, a 16-year-old J2 from Zephyr Cove, set up his historic win with a typical runner-up finish in slalom on Saturday. A second slalom on Sunday gave him the coveted win.
“We’ve been waiting and hoping it would happen,” said Heavenly Foundation eighth-year ski director Noel Dufty. “It was a very good thing it happened. He’s been knocking on the door but hasn’t won the big race outright. To win a FIS race is huge.
“He’s really dedicated,” Dufty said. “He pays for his racing by working three jobs during the summer, so I’m proud of him.”
The magnitude of the victory didn’t immediately set in for the easy-going Russell.
“It gives you a little boost and lets you know you can still do it, and it helps going into the next races,” Russell said.
Russell overcame a four-tenths-of-a-second deficit after the first run to beat skiers one and two years older than he.
“I just relaxed and I had to go for it,” Russell said. “I put it all on the line, I guess.”
His combined two-run time of 1 minute, 47.09 seconds was .32 better than Shane Dillon Huether.
At 135 pounds, Russell seems better suited to the technical events of slalom and giant slalom, but he’s also proving he can handle the speed races.
“At this age, you pretty much do all of them because you don’t know where you might be best. My speed events are good, but my weight holds me back,” Russell said.
In super-G last Friday, Russell placed ninth and 12th, with teammates Chris McKean 32nd and 23rd, and Ben Johnson 38th.
Johnson, however, showed character in not becoming demoralized by his poor starting positions in the weekend slalom races. He won the “bebo” award for making the most improvement from his starting position by placing 16th each day after drawing a 50th starting slot.
Also, Heavenly’s Cory Harris and McKean finished 12th in separate slalom races and Diana Higman collected a 10th-place finish in slalom and 24th in super-G.
Russell and company move on to Snow Summit this weekend in Big Bear, Calif., for a pair of slalom and giant slalom races.
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