Randall named to international Olympic athlete commission

Kikkan Randall (Photo by Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)

It’s been a whirlwind few days for Kikkan Randall. The Anchorage skier made Olympic history on Tuesday, winning gold and the first medal ever for the women’s U.S. cross-country ski team.

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On Thursday, Randall was elected to the the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission.

Randall has dominated cross-country skiing for decades. She’s skied in five winter Olympics and competed in nine world championships, winning plenty of high honors along the way.

This week, Randall checked one final box: Olympic gold medalist. She and her teammate Jessie Diggins edged out Sweden by the slimmest of margins– less than two tenths of a second in the team sprint in Pyeongchang.

At press conference after the race, Randall talked about her home state and how it helped mold her into an elite athlete.

“Growing up as a kid in Alaska, we don’t have the professional sports teams, so you grow up idolizing the Olympic athletes from our state,” Randall explained.

“I had incredible role models in my family– an aunt and uncle who were Olympians,” Randall continued. “Also, Nina Kemple, who was the top woman in the U.S. who really took me under her wing at my first Olympics.”

Her first Olympics were back in 2002 in Salt Lake City, where she finished 44th in the sprint.

Randall credits the team and coaches at Alaska Pacific University for upping her game and getting her on the medal podium for the first time at the Olympics.

When she’s not training, Randall spends time to helping others get into the sport of cross-country skiing.

Randall pointed out to reporters Wednesday not everyone has access to slick bobsleds or steep downhill ski jumps.

“But everybody can cross-country ski,” Randall said. “I hope we’ve awakened an interest and it’s [a] fun to get our sport a good spotlight like that.”

“The ability to inspire kids now to dream big and have that confidence, like our role models did for us, I think that’s what’s kept us motivated all these years,” Randall said, on behalf of herself and her teammate, Jessie Diggins.

Shortly after the press conference, Randall got news she’d been elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission. The 20 commissioners act as a link between athletes and the IOC.

“Wow, what amazing news to get,” Randall said in a release from the U.S. Olympic Committee. “I have so much passion and energy to put toward the Olympic Movement and it feels so good to have the athletes put their faith in me.

“I look forward to representing the athletes and making the Olympic Movement strong in the future,” Randall said. “This is going to be a really fun ride.”

Randall begins her eight-year term on the IOC Athletes’ Commission on Feb. 26.

Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer.

Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF.

Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about.

Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.

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