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Randall strikes World Cup gold

Beth Bragg
Kikkan Randall, left, of United States, sprays champagne at her teammate Jessica Diggins after they won the ladies 6 X 1.6 km free team sprint race, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at the cross-country World Cup ski event in Quebec City, Canada.
Jacques Boissinot
The United States Kikkan Randall leads during the ladies 6 X 1.6 km free team sprint race, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at the cross-country World Cup ski event in Quebec City, Canada.
FRANCIS VACHON

Thanks to Kikkan Randall, we have this question to ponder: Can something be called historic if it has become routine?

In Randall's case, the answer is yes.

The 29-year-old Anchorage skier teamed up Friday with Jessie Diggins of Afton, Minn., to win a World Cup team sprint race in Quebec City, Quebec.

The result was historic because the United States has never before won a team sprint, an event that's been on the World Cup scene for about 10 years.

But in another way the result was routine, because Randall had made it her routine to rewrite the U.S. history book for cross-country skiing. 

In front of a North American crowd that included friends and family, Randall and Diggins alternated laps around a 1.6-kilometer sprint course built on Quebec City streets. Diggins, 21, survived a wild ride on her third and final lap, nearly crashing while coming from behind to take the lead before tagging off to Randall, who held off Germany and Norway for the victory.

The medal is Randall's fourth since the World Cup tour began three weeks ago. The others came in Europe, where most of the World Cup races are held. Skiers will head to Canmore, Alberta, for races next weekend before returning to Europe for the remainder of the season.

"It's a great reward to be able to win in front of friends and family," Randall said in a U.S. Ski Team press release. "We wanted to go out and do our job and put on a good show, and the atmosphere here was fantastic today. It's so cool for us to see the American flag and hear our names called out. I'm glad we put in a good performance."

Randall and Diggins won in 21 minutes, 49.5 seconds, with Germany second in 21:50.4 and Norway third in 21:50.6. Holly Brooks of Anchorage combined with Ida Sargent to place ninth in the 10-team finals in 22:25.5.

"It was overwhelmingly awesome to be here and win with a crowd so close to home and to be sprinting with the girl who has been my mentor and who I've looked up to my entire life," Diggins said in a statement release by the U.S. Ski Team. "I'm happy I stayed on my feet." 

The win marked the second time this year that Randall and Diggins have reached the World Cup podium in a team sprint -- they placed second last season in a Jan. 15 race in Milan, Italy, a result that at the time was the best in U.S. history for the event.

Randall has made it her routine to make history like that. A three-time Olympian who skis with Brooks at the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, Randall in previous seasons became the first American woman (and first American, period, since Bill Koch more than 30 years ago) to win medals of various colors -- gold, silver, bronze -- at World Cup races.

(It should be noted that former APU skier Alison Owen-Spencer, a pioneer of U.S. women's skiing, won a 5-K in 1978 that is sometimes considered the world's inaugural World Cup race, although the International Ski Federation calls the race a test event.)

Last season, Randall became the first American woman to win an overall World Cup title, claiming the crystal globe for sprint racing. 

Three weeks ago in Sweden, she became the first American woman to win a medal in a distance race, claiming third in a 10-K freestyle. The next day, she was a member of the first U.S. women's relay team to win a medal, taking bronze along with Brooks, Diggins and Liz Stephen. 

Randall added to her haul two weeks ago in Finland, placing second in the 5-K freestyle at the World Cup mini-tour in Kuusamo.

She is scheduled to race again Saturday in an individual sprint in Quebec City, where she will be one of the favorites.

"I'm excited that I felt strong today," she said. "With this course and with the conditions, anything can happen (Saturday), but I hope to put out a good performance like I did today."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or call her at 257-4335.


By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage