No American woman has ever won an Olympic medal in the sport of cross-country skiing. Alaskan, Kikkan Randall has her sights set on being the first to do so.
A lifetime of skiing, a superhuman work ethic and a training program that uses all the advantages Alaska has to offer are some of the factors that have carried Randall toward her lofty aspirations.
Her mother has jokingly called her an alien, for lack of a better way to explain Randall’s tenacious drive for success. Her coach said the best way to describe Randall is to call her a warrior. People in her home town of Anchorage just call her Kikkan.
Recently, I had the good fortune to sit down and talk with Kikkan and some others close to her and her pursuit of Olympic glory.
In the weeks leading up to the Olympics in Vancouver, I will continue to post information about Kikkan’s background with Nordic skiing, some insight as to what makes her such a special athlete, as well as some information about the sport itself and what we can expect to see in the Olympics.
Kikkan saw her first Olympics on television when she was five years old.
“I think my parents said I turned around and said I was going to go to the Olympics someday,” said Kikkan. She just didn’t know what sport she was going to participate in yet.
Kikkan comes from a skiing family. Her mother, Deborah Randall, was a collegiate Nordic skier at the University of Utah. Her father, Ronn Randall, was an alpine skier who grew up in Wisconsin.
Ronn bought Kikkan her first pair of ski boots for her first birthday, before she could even walk. The boots came up to her knees; her smile stretched to both ears and a love for skiing was born.
Kikkan’s aunt, Betsy Haines, was a Nordic skier on the 1980 Olympic team in Lake Placid, and her uncle, Chris Haines, was on the 1976 Olympic team. Both lived in Anchorage while Kikkan was growing up.
Aunt Betsy was an Anchorage Junior Nordic skiing coach while Kikkan was in the program as a young girl.
“Growing up, I had heard a lot about the Olympics,” said Kikkan. “There were a lot of good role models around, a lot of good, family oriented skiing activity.”
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Kikkan’s career to this point is her silver medal she won in the 2009 World Championships last February. She became the first American woman to ever win a major championship medal in cross country skiing.