For Ruslan Reiter, the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea was about the experience, not the results.

“I watched a lot of athletes. Look at what they do. Learn as much as you can,” Reiter, who graduated from Maranacook Community High School in 2017, said.

Home in Manchester after competing in his first Paralympics last week, Reiter reflected on his debut Paralympics. Reiter competed in Nordic skiing and biathlon, earning four top 20 finishes and continuing to show the improvement he’s made since he began training with Team USA just under two years ago.

“His excitement was evident. His eyes were big. Being a rookie, he expected excitement,” John Farra, the US Paralympics Director of Nordic Skiing, said of Reiter.

At 18, Reiter was one of the youngest members of Team USA. His best finish came in the 12.5 kilometer biathlon. There, Reiter placed 11th, hitting 80 percent of his targets in the shooting portion of the race.

“It was warm that day. I kept reminding myself not to go too fast. I kept reminding myself to stay relaxed. I had a clean (perfect shooting) first stage. I was quite surprised,” Reiter said. “I don’t know what made it a good race. Just one of those days.”

Reiter spent much of his training time leading up to the games working on the biathlon, a new event for him, at the Outdoor Sports Institute in Fort Kent. That hard work was evident in PyeongChang, Farra said.

“Biathlon has been a focus for him,” Farra said. “He hit 55, 60 percent in two of his races, and in that one race, he was 80 percent. That was a glimpse of OK, this kid has looked at biathlon as an opportunity.”

Reiter arrived in South Korea with his team a few days before the start of the games, and spent the first night in Seoul going through athlete processing. Most of that entailed getting fitted for Team USA’s opening ceremonies uniform, and being reminded not to nap in order to let his body acclimate to the time change.

“You’re so overwhelmed with all the stuff they give you,” Reiter said.

Taking part in the opening ceremonies with Team USA was a unique thrill, Reiter said.

“I was just pretty happy and excited, It’s an awesome feeling,” Reiter said. “I’m still trying to take it all in.”

Reiter’s first event was the 7.5 kilometer biathlon on March 10. Reiter wore bib 1, meaning all eyes were on him as the first competitor on the course. He was nervous and excited.

“Once I started skiing, I got into my game mode,” Reiter said.

Along with the three biathlon events, Reiter also competed in a 1.5 kilometer Nordic sprint and a relay. A common denominator in each of Reiter’s events was a tendency to let excitement take over and go out too fast. That was normal and expected, Farra said.

“That’s typical. I did the same thing. You think you’re keeping it together, but you’re asking a little more than your body is ready for,” Farra said.

These games were meant to give Reiter a taste of the toughest international competition, and set the stage for bigger things in the 2022 Paralympics. After taking part in three World Cup events, the Paralympics was the next step in Reiter’s career.

“With four years of training, he could be fighting for podium opportunities (in 2022),” Farra said. “It does take a while and he’s got some things he can learn. Skiing is a long-term commitment. When he nails it, it’s all going to come together.”

In two weeks, Reiter will go to Vail, Colorado, to attend a function at which Team USA sponsors meet the athletes. The work for the 2022 Games in Beijing has already begun.

“I do want to go (to Beijing). I’ll get a lot of training in and get better,” Reiter said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM