Q&A with Kikkan Randall

Q&A with Kikkan Randall

Team USA's Kikkan Randall poses in snowy scene with cross-country skis

Where did you grow up? 
Anchorage, AK

What is your earliest memory of cross-country skiing?
I remember always wanting to play tag games and go off jumps at my earliest ski practices. I loved the feeling of gliding on the snow and being able to cover all types of terrain quickly.

What is your first memory of watching the Olympics?
I vividly remember watching the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics on TV and deciding that I was going to the Olympics someday. It wasn’t a question of whether I could, it was a question of which sport!

Do you remember a “breakthrough” moment in your cross-country career when you realized you could make it to the Olympic Games?
My senior year of high school (2001) I qualified for the World Championships team at just 18 years old, pretty young for cross-country skiing. But that made me convinced I could make the Olympic team the next year in 2002. When I finished 9th in the sprint at the 2006 Olympics, it made me really feel that winning an Olympic medal in skiing was possible for me.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and athletic career?
My parents both encouraged me and my siblings to be very active and try lots of different sports. Once we committed to a team or a group, we had to see it through the season. But then if we wanted to try something else they let us decide. My Dad put me on skis the day after my first birthday because he hoped I would be an alpine racer.

I’ve been together with my husband for the last 10 years. While that only spans two of my four Olympic appearances he has been an incredible source of encouragement, perspective, support and a great training buddy.

You became a mom in 2016. What do you think about having to balance your Olympic pursuits with parenting?
My son Breck was born last April. It’s been a fun new adventure to combine being a first time parent and an elite ski racer. Becoming a parent has brought a new perspective into my life. It’s made me really appreciate my sport and concentrated my time that I spend on training. And if I have a bad day with skiing, my son’s smiling face easily clears out any disappointment. I feel very motivated to reach my goals as an example to set for my kids. Especially since my son is part of my journey to 2018. He may not remember it but I can tell him stories about all the places he’s been. I am very motivated to win an Olympic medal to share with him.

Within the cross-country world, who has had the biggest impact on you?
Marit Bjoergen from Norway. She has been the most dominate female ski racer in history for over a decade. She is incredibly strong and tough.

Did anyone ever try to dissuade you from pursuing your goals in cross-country?
No one said it specifically but history told us we were not going to be successful in Nordic skiing. When I first started training full-time with a focus on going to the Olympics in cross-country skiing, no American woman had even been top 10, but somehow I believed it was possible to break that barrier.

What obstacles have you had to overcome in your life?
Being mentally and physically overdone during the 2015 season, resisting the urge to quit and move on from sport and then working my way back to top form.

How much time do you spend training each day?
Twice per day. 2-3 hours in the morning and another 1-2 hours in the afternoon. At least 6 days a week.

How much sleep do you need to feel your best?
I try to sleep 8.5 – 9.5 hours a night, although as a Mom this is never predictable these days. I also like to try to get in a 30 min-1.5 hour nap between training sessions.

What’s the most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
VO2Max testing on the [ski] treadmill. Basically roller skiing on a treadmill that gets steeper and faster until you fall off, hopefully as close to your max effort as possible. So hard to keep pushing towards a finish line that gets harder and harder to get to!

What are some of your favorite workout songs?
High energy pop stuff. “Battlefield” by Jordin Sparks, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, “Roar” by Katy Perry, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and “Bulletproof” by La Roux.

Do you have another full-time job or business?
I am the President of Fast and Female USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping girls involved in sports. We host single day fitness and inspirational events all over the country where we recruit top female elite athletes to be the leaders and role models for girls ages 8-18. Our view is that girls in sports are empowered for life! This is a total volunteer pursuit for me but a huge passion and something I hope to work more on when I’m done competing.

Are there any misconceptions about cross-country skiing you would like to clear up?
Cross-country skiing is often thought of as a boring event with people in spandex just disappearing off in the woods. But the sport has actually become really exciting. The sport is fast-paced with lots of head-to-head racing, exciting tactics and close finishes. Plus, Americans are getting pretty good at it!
 
What’s the coolest, weirdest or most intense thing about cross-country skiing that people typically miss?
An unknown side of our sport is how much work goes into preparing our skis for each race and how much the preparation of the skis can really matter in our results. Some days you can [be in] the best shape but not have the best skis and other days you’re skis will be amazing and that helps win the race! 

What is your biggest fear when competing?
That I won’t be able to push myself hard enough mentally when it gets really hard.

Do you have any specific pre-race rituals?
I like to fold my clothes and get really organized!

What’s something people would be surprised to learn about being an elite cross-country skier?
In cross-country skiing it takes many years of training to reach the top level. We train 7 months of the year, race over 4 months and really only get about 3-4 weeks off each spring before we start all over again. Also, every decision we make on a daily basis effects our physical and mental status which therefore effects training. So we are essentially always working 🙂

Who is your most interesting teammate and why?
Sophie Caldwell. Always smiling and easy to laugh. Naturally very efficient with her technique. Quiet but insightful.

Who is your Olympic role model?
[U.S. Olympic road cyclist] Kristin Armstrong, came back after having a kid to win multiple gold medals in the time-trial event, one of the hardest mental events I can imagine.

What athlete in any sport has inspired you the most?
[U.S. track and field runner] Steve Prefontaine. I loved the way he raced out front to see who had the most guts!

Do you have any nicknames?
Kikkanimal. My high school running teammates gave me this nickname for always encouraging our team to push harder and do everything 100%!

Who are your biggest rivals? Is it friendly or contentious?
Maiken Caspersen Falla from Norway. One of the few racers to beat me when I was at my best, has won all the major championship skate sprint races. While we’re fierce competitors we are still quite friendly. I have several close friends on European teams. Anna Haag from Sweden, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen from Finland (also became a mother two weeks after I did) and Ella Gjoemle Berg and Astrid Jacobsen from Norway.

What is your favorite perk of being an Olympic athlete? 
Being looked up to by kids and being able to motivate them to chase their dreams.

Have you been to South Korea? What are you excited to experience in PyeongChang?
Yes, in 2012 for the annual FIS Calendar Conference, as the athlete representative for cross-country. It was summer time though so looking forward to seeing it in the snow!

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
Help my team win our first ever Olympic medal in the relay events.

Karaoke is popular in South Korea. Would you sing if asked to get on stage?    
Yes, not very good at it but love to be silly!

Have you ever tried Korean food?
I like Korean BBQ!

If you are to indulge, what’s your favorite food, snack and dessert?
Don’t tell anyone but I love maple glazed donuts!

What do you like to do when you’re not cross-country skiing?
Computer stuff, my friends call me a techno weenie. I love pictures.

What is your favorite social media platform?
Instagram, I love sharing my adventures through photos and short video

Do you have any hidden talents?
I can ride a unicycle.

Do you have any pets?
Two cats: Sophie and Lulu. They are my napping buddies.

Have you learned to speak any foreign languages over your years of competing?
Just American and Canadian 😉

Do you have any special tattoos?
I have the Olympic rings and the 2002 cross-country Skier logo on my right ankle. I promised myself in high school that if I ever made the Olympic team I would get the rings as a tattoo.

How do you like to unwind after a race?
These days it’s just hanging with my husband and my son!

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