Kikkan Randall is a woman on the move…
Randall is a cross-country skier from Anchorage, Alaska, 4-time Olympian, the first American woman to win a cross country World Cup, and the President of Fast and Female USA—a non-profit that keeps young girls healthy, happy and active in sports.
She’s also won 17 U.S. National Titles, 3 Overall World Cup Sprint Titles, 13 World Cups, and was a World Champion in the team sprint in 2013.
In this interview, Kikkan shares her story as a professional athlete, the trials and tribulations of becoming a 4-time Olympian, and how she stays motivated in both her personal and professional life…
Interview with Kikkan Randall
How did skiing become so important in your life?
I grew up skiing with my family. My Mom was a competitive cross-country skier in college and my Dad was an avid alpine skier, so I grew up doing both. My aunt Betsy and my uncle Chris were both Olympians in cross-country skiing so I had great role models growing up.
As I got into high school, I was really getting into running and skiing. I ended up getting more serious about skiing because I liked that it combined endurance with power and speed.
I was also intrigued that no American woman had ever won an Olympic medal in the sport and wanted to try to be the first!
I love skiing because of the amazing feeling of gliding on the snow by your own power and the places it can take you.
What did it take, physically and emotionally, to become an olympian?
Becoming an Olympian has required a lot of desire and belief to set a long-term challenging goal and then a lot of hard work, persistence and patience over the course of many years to make my dream come true. While the physical training is demanding, requiring workouts twice per day six days a week for 11 months of the year, the mental and emotional components have been the most critical to my success.
Staying positive, focused and calculated has been crucial for making the small gains that lead to the big results.
What was your greatest professional or personal success?
One of the greatest moments in my career thus far has been winning the 2013 World Championship Team Sprint with my teammate, Jessie Diggins. It was the first gold medal at a World Championships in Women’s Cross-Country for the American team, and it was an accomplishment that really represented the hard work of our entire team.
We know a huge goal of yours was to win America’s first cross-country skiing medal since 1976. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as expected in the 2014 Winter Olympics. How did you overcome this letdown?
Before the Olympics in Sochi I promised myself that the most important success of the Olympics would be walking away knowing I had given my absolute best effort and knowing I left everything out on the course. In my mind, my best effort meant victory and I believed wholeheartedly that the gold medal was possible.
When race day came, however, and I gave my best effort and left everything out on the course and I didn’t win the gold medal, I had to remember that promise. Even though I was disappointed to not have been able to fight for the medals, I was proud of myself for preparing well and for giving my best effort during the race. So I was still able to walk away from Sochi with my head up.
In my career I’ve learned that while we always chase after the wins and the medals, it’s really about putting yourself in the best position to be successful and being able to give all your effort towards your goal. If you are able to do that, you will be more successful and more satisfied, a better feeling than the trophies can ever provide.
What are the common lies, myths, and misconceptions about competitive skiing?
Most people think cross-country skiing is boring, that the skiers just disappear off in the woods and endure discomfort for long periods. Skiing is actually becoming a very spectator-friendly, action-packed, fast-paced sport that combines speed, endurance and power all by gliding along the snow.
It’s actually quite exciting!
What motivates you to achieve your goals?
I am motivated by trying to reach my peak performance and keep pushing the barriers of what is possible in my sport. I like to find new ways to enhance my training and at the same time I love learning techniques from others.
I love the camaraderie of racing and training all over the world and getting to know athletes from other teams.
What is the #1 reason most people fail to succeed when attempting to become an olympian?
I think some people have a hard time being patient enough to work on the small goals that lead up to becoming an Olympian. Many get excited at the beginning of the journey but when they start hitting the rough spots, which are inevitable and happen to everyone, it can be easy to lose focus and let negative thoughts break down motivation.
My advice to those tackling a big goal like trying to make it to the Olympics is to be patient and positive. When the going gets tough, focus on doing the small things directly in front of you as well as you can and most of the time, you can pull yourself through the challenges and before you know it, you’re on track to reaching your goal!
How do you spend time with your family with such a busy training schedule?
I try to build time into my training schedule to take small breaks here and there so I can just focus on family or friends without the distraction of having to do a workout.
But sometimes, I also use workouts as great ways to catch up with family and friends. I’ll invite my Mom to ride her bike while I rollerski and we can chat while we go. I love running with friends to catch up! Now that we have a son, my husband and I have to be better at planning ahead so we can still get out for some workouts together and also get some time with just the two of us outside of training and baby.
If you could give one piece our readers about becoming a professional athlete, what would that be?
Decide where you want to go or what you want to achieve and then build a road map of how you will get there. By breaking the big goal into smaller goals, you can stay focused on the process of reaching the goals and can build towards your dreams one step at a time.
This takes patience and belief but it also makes the journey productive, enjoyable and surprisingly doable!
What is your favorite quote of all time?
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine
If you could create a quote to be remembered by right now, what would you say?
“Always give your best effort.” – Kikkan Randall
What are your current goals?
I am still motivated to try to win an Olympic medal and am especially focused on helping my team try to win Olympic medals in the relay events. Having team goals on the line is really keeping me motivated to work my way back to top shape after having a baby this past spring.
What projects are you working on now?
I am the President of Fast and Female USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping keep girls involved in sports for life. I help lead the organization which hosts inspiring fitness events all over the USA where top elite female athletes mentor girls ages 8-18. We’re teaching confidence, positive body image, healthy lifestyle habits and hopefully inspiring girls to stay involved in sports for life.
I also appear at local schools and community events on behalf of a project called Healthy Futures, an Alaskan program geared towards teaching positive daily habits of physical exercise and healthy lifestyle choices to kids.
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