Olympian Kikkan Randall speaks with Steamboat residents about her journey to Olympic gold | SteamboatToday.com

Olympic Gold medalist shares stories of success, disappointment with Steamboat Springs residents

Olympic Gold medalist Kikkan Randall talks about being a favorite to win a medal but not qualifying to advance in the sprint quarterfinals for the 2014 Winter Olympics by 0.05 of a second. Since the disciplines in that event are switched every four years between freestyle, which is Randall's strongest event, and classic, she thought it was her last chance to win an Olympic medal in that event. However, four years later, she returned and won a gold meal in the team sprint with teammate Jessica Diggins at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Monday, legendary cross country skier Kikkan Randall shared stories about how she made childhood dreams a reality, her journey through Olympic disappointment and joy and her greatest opponent: cancer.

“After my last World Cup race, the team put together an amazing slide show … as I watched the slide show, it wasn’t the medals, and it wasn’t the podiums — it was the little moments along the way,” Kikkan said. “The fact that we, together, created this team that is now filtering all the way down the pipeline — it’s inspiring more kids to ski, more kids to focus on skiing and to dream about their own Olympic gold someday.”

During her career as a member of the U.S. National Cross County Team, Randall earned 17 national titles, stepped on 16 World Cup podiums and made five trips to the Winter Olympic Games. 

She was the first U.S. woman in her sport to step on the world cup podium, win the world cup, world championship medal and world championship gold medal and the first Olympic top-10 finisher and Olympic medalist.

“When I first got into the sport, U.S. women had not been in the top 15 a the Olympics, yet,” Randall said. “We had certainly had some highlights on the men’s side … I credit some of my male teammates, like Chris Freeman, who finished fourth at the World Championships twice … Watching him get fourth at the World Championships played a huge role in me feeling like, ‘Okay, this is possible’…”

Randall also shared her stories about how she always dreamed of going to the Olympics, but she started in different sports — she participated in Alpine ski racing, soccer and was a runner, earning seven titles in track and three in cross country, when she was younger.

She had hopes of going to college as an Alpine ski racer and cross country runner, but in 1998, a track coach suggested she take up cross county skiing as a way of staying fit in the winter. She gave the sport a a try, fell in love with it and, 20 years later, teamed up with Jessica Diggins to become the first American cross country skiers to win a gold medal in the women’s team sprint in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Randall also shared the moments before her Olympic gold, when she discovered she’d be the lucky skier to race with Diggins, much to the disappointment of her teammate Sadie Bjornsen. Bjornsen response, however, is something that has stuck with her ever since.

“She told me that she believed in me as much as she believed in herself,’” Randall said. “Then she asked what she could do to help.”

A few days later Randall, who had finished her last leg of the race, watched as Diggins crossed the finish line in the team sprint freestyle race at the 2018 Winter Olympics to bring home the gold.

The team had beat out the Sweden and Norway — some of the most challenging opponents in the world — to become the first Americans to win in cross country skiing.

But she also shared the stories of the struggles to get to that point, the disappointment, loneliness and the shocking drop back to reality when she diagnosed with breast cancer after winning her gold medal. She said those experiences motivated her to inspire young skiers and teach them how to motivate each other as a group, dream bigger and reach new heights.

“I really look to role models wherever I can find them, and I played off their successes, and it gave me confidence,” Randall said. 

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.