Who is... Kikkan Randall?
Kikkan Randall is the United States’ most decorated cross-country skier. With plans to retire after the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, Randall will make her final attempt to win the first ever Olympic medal in women’s cross-country skiing for the U.S. Her tenacious work ethic and leadership has helped inspire a U.S. women’s team which proved this past season to be formidable contenders when they arrive in South Korea in February.
A day after Kikkan Randall turned a year old, her father Ronn strapped his little girl into her first pair of alpine skis for a lesson. He wanted Kikkan to become an alpine racer, like the ones he used to time races for back in the 70s.
Randall vividly recalls watching the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games on TV, and thinking to herself that she would go to the Olympics one day, she just needed to settle on which sport.
A pair of family members with Olympic experience helped steer that dream toward cross-country skiing. Randall’s uncle, Chris Haines, competed at the 1976 Olympics in cross-country skiing and her aunt, Betsy Haines, qualified to race in Lake Placid in 1980.
In middle school, Randall found a passion for pushing her body to its physical limit, just like her U.S. Olympic idol Steve Prefontaine, except for her, it would be on snow.
Randall has won three world championship medals, one of each color. On the World Cup, she has 33 podium finishes, 13 of those for gold.
In 2017, the highlight to Randall’s season was winning sprint bronze at world championships. Joining Randall on the podium was her U.S. teammate Jessie Diggins who took home silver. It was only the second time in history that U.S. athletes had won individual medals in a single cross-country event at world champs.
In her senior year of high school, at just 18 years old, Randall qualified for the U.S. cross-country team heading to Lahti, Finland for the 2001 FIS World Championships – the same venue where she won sprint bronze in 2017. Realizing she had accomplished something few her age could think of, since most cross-country skiers peak in their late 20s or early 30s, Randall was soon convinced she could qualify for her first Olympic Games in 2002 in Salt Lake City – the city in which she was born. And at 19, she did just that.
Kikkan Randall has sported, at the very least, a dyed streak of pink in her hair, and sometimes more, in each of her Olympic appearances. She revealed to Outside Magazine in 2017 that as a kid, she actually hated the color, but it has been her infusion of the hue which helped add a fun, modern edge to cross-country skiing.
"I like to joke that she's an alien. I tell her, 'I don't know where you came from.' She's so focused, so determined, so passionate about everything."
Randall has been the only constant presence on each of the past three U.S. Olympic women’s cross-country teams. Her skills on the snow have been best utilized in sprint events, where she has finished as high as eighth in the team sprint event in Sochi in 2014 and the individual sprint in Vancouver in 2010.
Three more times Randall has finished in the top 10 at the Olympics. At the 2006 Torino Olympics, she was ninth in the individual sprint, and tenth in the team sprint. Racing with the U.S. women’s relay team in 2014, Randall and company finished ninth.
Outside cross-country skiing
Needing a break from competition, Randall took a two-year break from cross-country skiing. During that time, Randall and her husband – retired alpine skier Jeff Ellis – had their first child in the spring of 2016, a boy they named Breck.