Considering that Kikkan is known for outworking just about all her competition in the gym and on the ski trails, it’s ironic that she says she didn’t really like all the hard work that came with Nordic skiing when she first took it up at the age of six.
“Nordic skiing was a little bit more physically challenging,” said Kikkan. “I loved playing games, going down slalom courses and going off jumps.”
Kikkan took up running in junior high school and started getting pretty serious about it as she entered high school. All her friends from the running team did cross-country skiing to stay in shape in the winter, so Kikkan joined them.
Pretty soon, she had to choose between alpine skiing and Nordic skiing because all the racing events happened on the same weekends. The deciding factor for Kikkan was the people she skied with.
“I was having so much fun with the camaraderie on the cross-country team, I ended up switching over that year,” said Kikkan.
Still cross-country skiing was only a training tool for Kikkan’s running career, that is until her running coach decided to move away prior to the summer of 1999.
In her search for a new training program for that summer, she found out about a new program at Alaska Pacific University, a program that she is still part of today and a program that has been instrumental in her development as a skier.
Kikkan’s mother Deborah said that Kikkan first looked into the program at APU with one question in mind: can the program help me get to the Olympics?
It was the summer between Kikkan’s sophomore and junior year of high school. The 2002 Olympics were just three years away, but coaches at APU told Kikkan she had some real potential as a skier.
“I was like, ok, I’m going to give this skiing thing a try. After a couple of months I got totally hooked,” said Kikkan.
She continued to run through the rest of her high school career, but skiing had become Kikkan’s primary occupation. Success was soon to follow.
She made it to the World Junior Championships in Slovakia in her first year in the program, as well as the Winter Goodwill Games in Lake Placid. The next year she went to the World Championships in Finland as an eighteen-year-old.
As a nineteen-year-old in 2002, Kikkan made her first Olympic team by virtue of a fairly new, shorter style of cross-country ski racing called the sprint.