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Randall sums up Olympic experience, looks toward future

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver recently ended, and for Alaskan Kikkan Randall the event was one special stop among many stops on the busy schedule of a cross-country skier.

Athletes can spend an entire lifetime preparing to compete in the Olympics. When they finally reach the big event, it comes and goes in the blink of an eye. For Randall, those brief two weeks of competition are all part of a grand plan.

Randall began setting Olympic goals more than a decade prior to the Vancouver games, yet Vancouver is not where the plan concludes.

“For me this is not the end. I see this Olympics as the beginning of the next four years. I feel like the U.S. team is getting closer to the medals all the time,” said Randall via email. “The best of the journey is yet to come.”

No American woman has ever won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing. Randall is America’s top female cross-country skier and does have a realistic shot at winning a medal someday. Time eventually will run out, however, as Randall plans on making the 2014 games her last attempt.

Randall had two big goals for the 2010 games: she wanted a top-12 finish in the classic sprint and a top-6 finish in the teamsprint. Both goals were reached.

“I am proud of how I prepared for these games, and confident that I skied my best,” said Randall.

Randall also set a personal best in a distance race by competing in her first major championship 30 km race. For anyone curious about what goes on during a cross-country race, Randall’s description of the race is as follows:

“I was pretty nervous the morning of the 30km. The weather must have been nervous too because it was crying out all sorts of precipitation, making for some tricky waxing. The decision came down to choosing between zeros (no-wax) skis or skis with klister. I chose to go with klister skis for safer kick, although I would have the option to change my skis three times during the race if needed.

The beginning of the mass-start was pretty chaotic as everyone was antsy to get into a good position. I stayed calm and made up spots where I could without expending too much energy. About 3km in, I collided with an Ukrainian girl on a corner and fell, but popped back up quickly. Over the first 10km, I worked my way into the middle of the pack and settled into a good rhythm. I was surprised to find the pace very manageable. We lapped through the stadium after each 5km loop and each time several skiers would dive off to switch skis. My skis were kicking well, so I stuck with them.

Around the 15km mark I could still see the leaders ahead, about 30 seconds off in the distance. However, the pace was beginning to shift and the pack started to thin out. Sometimes I would be skiing in a train with five to ten other skiers and other times I would be alone.

With 10km to go, the coaches were encouraging me to switch skis to get a faster pair. However, I could feel my muscles starting to cramp, especially my triceps and I didn’t want to risk loosing my kick. Over the last lap and a half, I still had good energy but the cramps were coming on stronger and stronger in every part of my body. I had to shorten my stride to keep from completely locking up.

Finally, I made it back into the stadium for the final time. From the roar of the crowd, I could tell someone was hot on my heels. As I rounded the final turn, I felt the presence of another skier to my left. I tried all matters of technique trying to fend her off and ended up lunging for my final place at the line. The board read ‘FOTO FINISH’. Luckily, I got my pinky toe in just before hers (Sylwia J of Poland) for 24th place.

It had poured rain during most of the race and I was totally soaked. As I changed into my dry clothes, my muscles continued to cramp. Though it didn’t matter, my Olympics were officially done.”

While many athletes were ready to party and celebrate at the end of the Olympics closing ceremonies, the U.S. cross-country ski team had to catch a plane for Europe at 4:30 a.m. The next stop was the World Cup ski races in Lahti, Finland where Randall and Alaska Pacific University teammate, James Southam found more success.

While American skiers may ski in relative obscurity, the one certainty is that they are always skiing somewhere. Whether in competition or on the training trails, they are skiing with a purpose. They know that, fair or unfair, their success will be judged by one special event every four years.

When 2014 rolls around and Sochi is the host for the Winter Olympics, we can be certain of a few things heading into the games: Cross-country skiing will still be a lesser-known sport in America, no American woman will have an Olympic medal in the sport, and Randall has plans to change those two facts while she is there.

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