Randall Announced as New York Gold Medal Gala Keynote Speaker
“I just saw an open frontier and a history waiting to be written. I loved the challenge of it,” said Olympic and World Champion cross country skier Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) on the topic of breaking boundaries for both women in sport and American cross country skiing. Randall’s story is an impressive one and one she relishes sharing in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of cross country skiers and fans. On October 24, Randall will be sharing her story as the keynote speaker for U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s 53rd annual New York Gold Medal Gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom.
Randall’s ski story starts the day after her first birthday when her dad first put her on skis. It was love at first glide, and Randall was hooked on the feeling of skis on snow. Unsurprising, as skiing runs in her blood: she is the niece of two Olympic cross country skiers. Having a close familial tie to the Olympics taught Randall confidence early on that she could follow in their footsteps. In middle school, Randall connected the satisfaction of covering miles on her own power with competition. “I discovered what it felt like to turn my joy of skiing into chasing after goals and pushing my body to be faster and stronger. Ever since I got my first taste of competition, I’ve been motivated to build myself into a top international competitor.”
Surrounding herself with those that supported her personally and athletically, and being prepared were the core attributes that Randall leaned on to drive her Olympic aspirations. At her first of five Olympic appearances, starting in Salt Lake in 2002, Randall finished 44th, which spurred a 10-year plan she and her coaches created to get her onto the Olympic podium. “As a 19 year old it was incredibly daunting to think about a 10-year process to get to that Olympic podium. However, once I had my plan, I could clearly see the immediate goals to work on. Being able to take a big challenge and break it into manageable pieces gave me something attainable to focus on right in front of me.”
To be the best it takes a village, and Randall attributes much of her success to the team that surrounded her. She learned the value and importance of team on her high school cross country running and ski teams. “From then on I knew being in a team environment not only helped me get the best performance out of myself, but it was also so much more invigorating and fun to chase performance together with my teammates and coaches. When I got onto the U.S. Ski Team, I craved the same sort of team environment that I’d had in high school and wanted to be competitive in relay events.”
Leading an impressive career was a prerequisite to achieving her dreams. “To truly be able to contend for an Olympic medal I knew I would first achieve success at the World Cup and World Championship level. Those were the short term goals that needed to be conquered in order to set myself up for the ultimate goal. I was never discouraged by the fact that no American woman had done it before me.” With 29 World Cup podiums (13 of which are victories), three World Cup overall sprint titles, three World Championship medals, and of course, the Olympic gold medal, Randall left nothing on the table. She was the first American woman to podium at a FIS Cross Country World Cup, win a FIS Cross Country World Cup, achieve a World Championship victory and finish top-10 at the Olympics. She was the first American to be named World Cup Champion and win an Olympic gold medal.
When faced with a challenge, Randall does not back down. It’s been over a year since that historic day in PyeongChang, a fairytale ending to a storied 20-plus year career. But in that time, instead of getting to shift gears, Randall found herself on a new battlefield when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2018. She documented her fight via social media, showing the world the good, the bad and the in-between, and handled herself with immeasurable grace. “When met with adversity, I have always been able to reframe and refocus on what I can do in that moment and being patient and confident that I can get through anything. Every time I’ve had to face adversity and have been able to come through it stronger than ever, it gives me confidence for the next challenge I will face.” Randall underwent two excisions in November of last year, which yielded a clean report, and then 33 rounds of radiation. She currently has a clean bill of health and a new title to add to her resume: cancer survivor.
Since being cleared, Randall has been on another kind of victory tour, supporting causes close to her heart. In accepting the keynote speaking position for this year’s Gala, Randall will connect the dots back to the team that propelled her through cross country skiing history. “Now that I’ve had a year to reflect on my career and what role skiing has played in my life, I am more passionate than ever about sharing that story and that enthusiasm of the sport I love. I’m excited to be able to share the story of how we went from obscurity to Olympic history, and get people inspired to continue supporting our athletes to keep pushing barriers and inspiring our country.”
“I want to take all the experience and perspective that took me over twenty plus years to collect and use it to help the next generation of athletes achieve their dreams and goals. I want to help improve the knowledge, resources, and support for our athletes to keep raising the bar of what’s possible in skiing and snowboarding.”
Having been a young female with an ambitious dream, Randall knows first hand the importance of strong role models. She was fortunate enough to have two strong ones closely related to her: her mother, and her Aunt Betsy Haines. “My mom was an athletic, strong and confident woman. My Aunt Betsy was the Alaska state mile record holder and a 1980 Olympian. I used to follow her around like a shadow.”
“I looked up to female and male role models alike. Tommy Moe was a big inspiration for me when he won the Olympic gold in downhill in 1994. Picabo Street was another big role model for me. I even named my unicycle Picabo.” In turn, being a role model has been one of Randall’s favorite parts about being an elite athlete. She loves to encourage others to be healthy and chase their dreams.
This will only be Randall’s second time attending the Gala, as her rigorous training schedule was already well underway by the time October rolled around. She attended once, in 2012, while recovering from a stress fracture in her foot. “It was an incredible experience to personally meet so many of the people that helped support the Team and to get a chance to share what our team was working on. It’s fun now to think back to what has transpired since the 2012 Gala and imagine how the athletes who will be attending this year will continue to unfold.”
By staying connected to U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Randall remains close to her passion for skiing and to the people who are part of the core of who she is. Although retired from competition, she is still part of the team behind the team, serving as inspiration for rookie and veteran members alike—a friendly reminder that anything is possible with a plan and a support system.
“I have no doubt in my mind that I would never have achieved the level I did without an amazing team supporting, encouraging and sharing the journey with me. My proudest achievements from my 20-plus years as a ski racer are not the medals, it’s the moments I shared with my teammates along the way.”
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