The Winter Olympics have been a successful event for Alaskan cross-country skiers. Kikkan Randall, James Southam and Holly Brooks, all part of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club, each made the most of their opportunity to represent the United States in the Olympics.
Randall, the top skier for the United States Women’s cross-country ski team, set a goal of reaching the semifinals in the Ladies’ individual sprint classic.
“As much as I would like to say my goal is to win a medal, my goal for this year is to finish in the top 12. That would be a huge improvement for me,” said Randall just prior to the start of the Olympics.
Randall did indeed reach her goal, missing out on the finals by just a few seconds. Randall has plans to compete in the 2014 Olympics and remains America’s best hope for its first medal in ladies’ cross-country skiing.
Erik Flora, the head cross-country skiing coach at APU said for a relatively small club like theirs to achieve such world class results is amazing.
“What is impressive, is that for three years in a row we have set down in the spring, set specific goals and accomplished all of the big ones,” said Flora via email.
Randall’s big goal this year was to stay focused on classic sprinting while improving her distance racing. She did both. She posted personal bests in all three events she competed in.
“Kikkan also showed, in the team sprint, that she is one of the top skate sprinters in the world,” said Flora.
Flora credits a portion of the success in Vancouver to weather and snow conditions that are very similar to what they train on in Alaska, but he does not discount the hard work and thorough preparation put in by the coaches and skiers of APUSC.
“We have a great system and it is working. The hundreds of kilometers skied each year have paid off,” said Flora.
While Southam and Brooks were late additions to the Olympic squad, they both got their chance to compete. They finished 28th and 36th respectively in the Men’s 50-kilometer Mass Start Classic and Ladies’ 30-kilometer Mass Start Classic.