ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - It’s been more than a month since Alaska’s Kikkan Randall and her Team U.S.A. teammate Jessie Diggins made Olympic history, with the United States’ first women’s cross-country skiing Olympic medal, and the first gold for the U.S. for men and women.
It’s been a long journey to the podium for the Alaska-grown athlete, who dreamed of the moment since she was a young girl.
But the support the five-time Olympian has seen from her family and the community helped her pave the way for America’s future in cross-country skiing.
“It’s special to come from a place like Alaska and how many people have been a part of making that happen, and so I’m so glad that we all get to feel a little piece of it and celebrate together,” Randall told Channel 2 Monday, a day after she returned from the World Cup circuit. Randall said many Alaskans who stayed up late watching her gold medal victory this year did the same in Sochi four years ago.
“We all went through this experience four years ago together,” she said. “And when the day came and went, I left it all out on the snow, but I got eliminated in the quarterfinals by five hundredths of a second, and all of Alaska was up in the middle of the night watching that happen, and they went through that with me.”
That team spirit helped her focus on building the success of Team USA, and inspired her to continue competing this year in her fifth Olympic Games.
“When I got on the U.S. Ski team, and I was the only woman, I just, I wanted a team around,” Randall said. “I knew that was going to be what I needed to be successful, but I knew that was also what was going to make the journey most rewarding.”
Randall says it was the team she’s helped build around her that inspired her to compete beyond Sochi, even if it meant she wasn’t competing in the race in which she and Diggins found victory. “Going into these games, I didn’t even know what races I would get to do, because in creating this team, I’ve created these women that are stronger than me a lot of days,” she said.
Randall hopes that her success has opened up new worlds for Alaska’s young athletes. More than half the U.S. Cross-country ski team was from Alaska programs.
“I hope what I’ve been able to do is show that being a professional cross country skier is a great lifestyle, that you can not be afraid to set these big goals of trying to be best in the world, you know. We have a path now for how to get there,” Randall said. “I hope we get some of our talented kids kindof thinking that pathway and knowing it’s possible.”
Randall also is proud to see the exposure her sport has received from her and Diggins’ success. “It’s so fun to see how many people got to experience their first cross-country ski race,” she said. “We had Patrick Dempsey comment on one of our Instagram posts, congratulating us on an amazing race – when McDreamy is watching cross-country skiing, I think we’ve really taken it to another level,” she joked.
With her gold medal aspirations achieved, it’s now time for Randall to turn the page to a new chapter, away from Alaska – at least for some of the time. Randall, her husband and their young son, Breck, are moving to British Columbia soon. “I’m so happy to have wrapped it up with this fairy tale ending, but I’m also really looking forward to the next chapter,” she said. Watching her son’s pursuits – he’s already been on skis, she said – and focusing on her husband’s endeavors are on that list.
But she doesn’t expect some aspects of her life to change that much.
In a back-to-back victory, the day after her gold medal performance, Randall found out she’d been elected to the International Olympic Committee’s athlete’s commission, which gives input to the committee from the athletes’ perspective. Randall will attend every Olympics for the next eight years. “That role, no matter where I was going to be based, was going to be taking me over there, and keeping me really involved in the sport, which I think is cool, and I can take my five Olympics of experience and hopefully help strengthen the Olympic movement for the next generation to come.” Randall said.
She also plans to dedicate more time to her organization Fast and Female, which brings good role models in to inspire girls to compete in sports. She pointed out that while racing the World Cup and in the Olympics, she was often not back in Alaska for more than three weeks at a time.
“While I’ll be leaving Alaska as my permanent residence,” Randall says, “I am really excited to still stay very connected, to come back and forth, because I love it here, I love the people here, and I definitely want to stay connected.”