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As Kikkan Randall chases Olympic gold, she hopes to make nordic skiing cool

Beth Bragg
Kikkan Randall of the USA wins the Free Sprint Final in front of second placed Natalia Matveeva of Russia, left, during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. The World Cup is held on artificial snow in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Martin Meissner
Kikkan Randall skies during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010. The WC is held in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Frank Augstein
Olympic skier Kikkan Randall visits with Caleb Mix and his mom Kathryn Mix at the 2010 Alaska State Fair on Friday August 3, 2010 in Palmer, AK.
Bob Hallinen
Second placed Denise Herrmann, left, of Germany, the winner Kikkan Randall, center, from the U.S. and third placed Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia celebrate after the final run in the Women's World Cup Cross Country Ski 1.5km Sprint Free event in Szklarska Poreba, Poland, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.
Alik Keplicz
U.S. Kikkan Randall celebrates winning the ladies World Cup sprint event with Norway's Marit Bjorgen, right, at the Lahti Ski Games in Lahti, Finland on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Markku Ulander
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall high-fives students after the school assembly at Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off the ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel) program.
Bill Roth
US Sadie Bjornsen, left, and Kikkan Randall celebrate after capturing the second place during the Ladies 6x0.9km Free Team Sprint Final at the Ski Cross Country World Cup, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 in Duesseldorf, Germany.
Frank Augstein
Italy's Arianna Follis , left, celebrates after winning ahead of Norway's Vesna Fabjan, center, and Kikkan Randall of the US during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010. The WC is held in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Frank Augstein
Holly Brooks and Kikkan Randall competing in the women's 20-K classic race on the third day of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010.
Bill Roth
Winner Kikkan Randall from the USA smiles after the World Cup cross-country skiing sprint in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
Lubos Pavlicek
U.S. Kikkan Randall reacts after winning the ladies World Cup sprint event at the Lahti Ski Games on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Heikki Saukkomaa
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion displays the Crystal Globe that she won this ski season during a visit to Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel).
Bill Roth
First placed Kikkan Randall of the USA, center, second placed Natalia Matveeva of Russia, left, and Laurien van der Graaf of Switzerland on the third place celebrate on the podium during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. The WC is held in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Martin Meissner
Three-time Olympian and World Cup cross country skier Kikkan Randall make the transition to the bike during her 4th place finish during the 27th annual Gold Nugget Triathlon at Bartlett High School in Anchorage on Sunday, May 16, 2010.
Bill Roth
Holly Brooks is congratulated by Kikkan Randall after the two skiers finished the women's 20-K classic race on the third day of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010.
Bill Roth
Olympic cross country skier and world cup champion Kikkan Randall speaks to Winter Olympic fans gathered at Town Square Park in downtown Anchorage for a Sochi Send-off for Alaska athletes who are leaving for the competition in Europe before the games in Sochi on Saturday, November 9, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
U.S. Kikkan Randall, left, leads Norway's Marit Bjorgen in the ladies World Cup sprint event at the Lahti Ski Games on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Heikki Saukkomaa
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion displays the Crystal Globe that she won this ski season during a visit to Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel).
Bill Roth
Kikkan Randall of the USA, celebrates after winning the Free Sprint Final during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. The World Cup is held on artificial snow in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Martin Meissner
Three-time Olympic cross country skier Kikkan Randall, center, and snowboarding Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof helped raise the first wall of a Habitat for Humanity Anchorage partner home on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. Two-time Olympian skier James Southam also worked along-side other Habitat volunteers and the future homeowners. The day of service is part of the U.S. Olympic CommitteeÕs (USOCÕs) Team for Tomorrow Humanitarian Relief Fund, a program where U.S. athletes offer assistance to people in need throughout the country and around the globe.
Bill Roth
Two-time Olympian and World Cup competitor Kikkan Randall of Anchorage placed second in the women's 5-K freestyle event during the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park on Monday, January 5, 2009.
Bill Roth
Three-time Olympian and World Cup nordic skiing sprint champion Kikkan Randall on her last day at home on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, before leaving Anchorage to compete on the World Cup circuit and in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Bill Roth
Kikkan Randall of the US finishes second in the women's 5km cross country freestyle skiing competition, during the FIS World Cup Ruka Nordic Opening 2012, in Kuusamo, Finland, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012.
Vesa Moilanen
World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall makes a grand entrance into the stadium at Kincaid Park riding on top of a trail groomer during a ski parade and welcome home party on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2012. Hundreds of people attended the event and were able to meet with the three-time Olympian, get an autographed poster, and have their picture taken with Randall and the Joska Crystal Globe that she won this ski season.
Bill Roth
Nordic skiing Olympian Kikkan Randall makes the transition from the bike to run during the Gold Nugget Triathlon at Bartlett High in Anchorage on Sunday, May 15, 2011.
Bill Roth
Cross country skier Kikkan Randall, of Anchorage, was named to the US Olympic team in January of 2010.
Marc Lester
Two-time Olympian and World Cup competitor Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, right, placed second in the women's 5-K freestyle event during the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park on Monday, January 5, 2009.
Bill Roth
Three-time Olympian and World Cup nordic skiing sprint champion Kikkan Randall with her husband Jeff Ellis on her last day at home on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, before leaving Anchorage to compete on the World Cup circuit and in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Bill Roth
Fourteenth placed Kikkan Randall of the United States skis during the women's 9 km pursuit handicap race at the cross country Tour de Ski competition in Oberhof, Germany, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.
Jens Meyer
Homecoming celebration for World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall at Kincaid Park on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2012. Hundreds of people attended the event and were able to meet with the three-time Olympian, get an autographed poster, and have their picture taken with Randall and the Joska Crystal Globe that she won this ski season.
Bill Roth
Third-place finisher Amber Stull, left, poses with winner Shannon Donley with her son Finnigan, 6, and second-place finisher Kikkan Randall, at the Gold Nugget Triathlon in Anchorage on Sunday, May 15, 2011.
Bill Roth
Kikkan Randall rounds a corner in the lead on her way to her fourth title sweeping this year's US National Championship cross country ski races at Kincaid Park on Friday January 8, 2010. Randall capped the week of racing by winning the classical sprint race on Saturday.
Bob Hallinen
Two-time Olympian and World Cup competitor Kikkan Randall of Anchorage on her way to a second-place finish in the women's 5-K freestyle event during the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park on Monday, January 5, 2009.
Bill Roth
APU skiers Holly Brooks and Kikkan Randall fly over a jump on the cross country ski course on Eagle Glacier. While most course don't include jumps the jump helps the skiers balance and body awareness and provides some fun in the training regime. Elite cross country skiers from the APU ski team, the US National team and skiers from other countries participate in the North American Women's Training Alliance camp at the Thomas Glacier Training Center on Eagle Glacier in the Chugach Mountains above Girdwood, AK on Thursday, July 25, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
US athlete Kikkan Randall lies in the finish area after winning the ladies freestyle 3.1 km prologue at the cross country Tour de Ski competition in Oberhof, central Germany, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.
Candy Welz
Homecoming celebration for World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall at Kincaid Park on Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2012. Hundreds of people attended the event and were able to meet with the three-time Olympian, get an autographed poster, and have their picture taken with Randall and the Joska Crystal Globe that she won this ski season.
Bill Roth
Holly Brooks and Kikkan Randall turn around at the top of Mount Marathon. Women climbed to the 3,022-foot high point and back to the streets of Seward in the 2011 Mount Marathon race on July 4, 2011.
Marc Lester
Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner, left, and teammate Daria Gaiazova qualified in this semifinal heat in the women's Team Sprint Free final at Whistler Olympic Park, in Whistler, B.C., at the 2010 Olympic Games, Monday February 22, 2010. Kikkan Randall is wearing bib number 16 at right.
Peter J. Thompson
Italy's gold medal winner Arianna Follis is flanked by United States' silver medal winner Kikkan Randall, left, and Finland's bronze medal winner Pirjo Muranen during a flower ceremony after the Sprint competition at the Cross Country competitions of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
Jens Meyer
Video interviews with Kikkan Randall and other local Olympians played on a large screen as fans attending Rally Alaska! mingled with mascots, perused booths and displays and recorded video greetings to Alaska's Olympians at the event sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and Municipality of Anchorage and a number of other organizations on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Town Square.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall leads a pack of roller skiers up the road in Kincaid Park. Cross country skiers work out in an interval session on the road and trail of Kincaid Park on Tuesday morning, June 19, 2012. APU is hosting a summer training camp for elite cross country skiers from the US and Canada.
Marc Lester
Kikkan Randall proudly displays her crystal globe as the FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint champion at the finals in Falun, Sweden.
Margo Christiansen
Kikkan Randall celebrates as she crosses the finish line of the Mount Marathon race on July 4, 2011.
Steph Anderson
United States' Kikkan Randall skis during the Women's 30k mass start classic race at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010.
Dmitry Lovetsky
United States' silver medal winner Kikkan Randall skis during the Sprint competitions at the Cross Country competitions of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
Jens Meyer
Kikkan Randall, of the United States, competes during the women's 1.3-km free sprint qualifying race at the cross-country World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.
Jeff McIntosh
Kikkan Randall of APU and the U.S. Ski Team leads a pack of roller skiers up a hill on West Dimond Boulevard during a rolling speed workout Thursday morning, July 18, 2013 in the Sand Lake area. The third annual North American Women's training Alliance camp is under way around Anchorage for a week of dryland training before moving onto Eagle Glacier next week. Skiers including 2007 world sprint champion Astrid Jacobsen of Norway, 2006 Olympic sprint gold medalist Chandra Crawford of Canada and World Cup veteran Bettina Gruber of Switzerland, behind Randall, have joined U.S. Ski Team members in Alaska to prepare for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall, of the United States, smiles on the podium after taking the second place during a cross-country ski women's individual World Cup sprint race, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The World Cup race is held on artificial snow in the heart of the northern Italian city of Milan.
Antonio Calanni
Kikkan Randall, USA competes during FIS Cross-Country World Cup 1,0 km Classic Sprint qualification Wednesday March14, 2012 in central Stockholm.
CLAUDIO BRESCIANI
Holly Brooks (right) hugs Kikkan Randall after Randall won the Mount Marathon race on July 4, 2011.
Steph Anderson
APUÕs Kikkan Randall leads Team USA to a fast start in the first leg of the womenÕs 4x5 relay at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Here she races up the last hill prior to the stadium with her coach running beside her giving her information about how the race is going.
Tom Garrett
Russia's Natalia Matveeva, left, and United States' silver medal winner Kikkan Randall, during the Sprint competitions at the Cross Country competitions of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
Jens Meyer
Maiken Caspersen Falla, center, of Norway celebrates her win on the podium with second-place finisher Kikkan Randall, left, of the United States, and third-place finisher Celine Brun-Lie of Norway following the women's 1.3-km free sprint final race at the cross-country World Cup skiing event in Canmore, Alberta, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.
Jeff McIntosh
U.S. Ski Team members Kikkan Randall, left, of APU and Liz Stephen of Vermont finish a circuit during a rolling speed workout Thursday morning, July 18, 2013 in the Sand Lake area. The third annual North American Women's training Alliance camp is under way around Anchorage for a week of dryland training before moving onto Eagle Glacier next week.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall from the United States, right, celebrates while crossing the finnish line, ahead of Celine Brun-Lie, down, and Maiken Caspersen Falla, up, both from Norway, during the women's cross country 1,3 km free sprint World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Randall won the race, Brun-Lie placed third and Falla fifth.
Petr David Josek
Kikkan Randall nears the top of the climb as top cross country skiers tackle the challenging Dollar Mountain Hillclimb to wrap up the SuperTour Finals in Sun Valley, ID Saturday April 2, 2011.
Tom Kelly
Kikkan Randall starts her Women's individual classic sprint Cross Country qualification heat at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010.
Elaine Thompson
Kikkan Randall signs a hat for a Fairbanks fan during the U.S.Cross Country Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska on Friday, March 28, 2008.
JILLIAN ROGERS
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
Olympian Kikkan Randall poses for a photo with Liza Lebo, 8, as families and individual runners turn out in droves for the inaugural event of the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series September 11, 2012 at Kincaid Park.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall from the United States, center, Hanna Falk, left, from Sweden and Celine Brun-Lie, right, from Norway pose on the podium during the awarding ceremony after the women's cross country 1,3 km free sprint World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. Randall won the race ahead of second placed Falk and third placed Brun-Lie.
Petr David Josek
Kikkan Randall of the US, reacts after winning the women's World Cup Sprint, in Drammen, Sunday Feb. 20, 2011.
Bendiksby, Terje
Kikkan Randall pulled ahead of Sara Renner of Canada on the last of six laps in the team sprint races Monday February 22, 2010 at the Vancouver Olympics. Randall came from 8th place past Renner and in a photo finish edged her out of 6th place, the highest place for an American team in this event at a winter Olympics.
Tom Garrett
World Champion cross country skier Kikkan Randall. Elite cross country skiers from the APU ski team, the US National team and skiers from other countries participate in the North American Women's Training Alliance camp at the Thomas Glacier Training Center on Eagle Glacier in the Chugach Mountains above Girdwood, AK on Thursday, July 25, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
Two-time Olympian Kikkan Randall of Anchorage receives the hardware after winning her 12th national after competing in the women's 10-K freestyle event during the second day of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships being held at Kincaid Park on Monday, Jan. 4, 2010. It was Randall's second national title at the championships.
Bill Roth
Kikkan Randall of the United States crosses the finish line to win 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
From left, Jessica Diggins, Holly Brooks and Kikkan Randall, from the US skiing team react, after finishing third in the 4x5 km Classic/Free Relay distance, during the Cross Country World Cup, at the Hellner Stadium , in Sweden, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012.
JONAS EKSTRÌÐMER
Kikkan Randall from the United States celebrates after winning the women's cross country 1,3 km free sprint World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011.
Petr David Josek
United States' Kikkan Randall and Holly brooks get support during the Women's 30k mass start classic race at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010.
Elaine Thompson
Cedar Bourgeois rounds the flagpole at the top of Mt. Marathon just ahead of Kikkan Randall on Sunday, July 4, 2010. Though Bourgeois was second to the top of the mountain, she passed Holly Brooks to win the women's Mount Marathon race.
Marc Lester
Kikkan Randall from the US celebrates her win at the World Cup cross-country skiing sprint in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
LUBOS PAVLICEK
Kikkan Randall finishing first and Rebecca Dussault finishing second both celebrate as the come across the finish line off the US National Cross Country Ski Championship freestyle sprint race at Kincaid Park on Saturday January 1, 2010.
Bob Hallinen
Kikkan Randall of the United States carries an American flag after winning the women's final sprint race Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at the cross-country World Cup ski event Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Quebec City.
Jacques Boissinot
Kikkan Randall of the United States, first place, is flanked by second place Norway's Maiken Capersen Falla, left, and third place Ida Ingermarsdotter on the podium for women's final sprint ski race Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at the FIS Cross-country World Cup in Quebec City.
Jacques Boissinot
Lydia Blanchet and Taryn Hunt-Smith of APU listen to Olympic skier Kikkan Randall as she demonstrates how skiers can rest in the tuck position on Saturday January 29, 2011. The cross country skiers were part of the hundreds of girls from 9 to 19 years old who gathered at Chugiak High. Fast and Female is in its third year and is designed to teach girls cross country skiing and inspire them to conquer the world.
Bob Hallinen
United States Kikkan Randall celebrates while crossing the finish line to win the women's sprint competition in the FIS World Cup Cross Country ski event in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011.
Arno Balzarini
This license plate identifies vehicle driver Kikkan Randall as a member of the U. S. national ski team.
Erik Hill
Second placed Laurien van der Graaff from Switzerland, winner Kikkan Randall from the USA and third placed Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg from Norway, from left to right, smile after their World Cup cross-country skiing sprint in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
Lubos Pavlicek
Winner Kikkan Randall of U.S., center, second placed Astrid Jacobsen of Norway, left, and third placed Natalia Korosteleva of Russia, right, are seen on the podium after the women's 1.2 km sprint free at the cross-country World Cup event in Demino, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007.
MIKHAIL METZEL
Kikkan Randall, from the United States, celebrates her first place finish in the ladies 1.6km sprint race final, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at the World Cup cross-country ski event in Quebec City.
Francis Vachon
Kikkan Randall of the United States is cheered on as she races to win the women's free team sprint 6-1.6-kilometer race Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at the cross-country World Cup ski event in Quebec City.
Jacques Boissinot
Hundreds of Fast and Female girls from 9 to 19 years old gathered at Chugiak High on Saturday January 29, 2011. Fast and Female is in its third year and is designed to teach girls cross country skiing with fun games and inspire them to conquer the world. Olympic cross country skiers Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks were among the leaders.
Bob Hallinen
Winner Kikkan Randall from United States, center, celebrates on the podium next to second placed Natalia Matveeva from Russia, left, and third placed Maiken Caspersen Falla from Norway, right, after winning the women's FIS cross country World Cup sprint in the free technique in Davos, Switzerland, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011.
Arno Balzarini
Ronn Randall presents his Olympian daughter Kikkan with a gallon of chocolate milk as mom Deborah watches following a press conference Tuesday January 19, 2010 at APU. As a long-standing family joke, Kikkan always receives a dairy treat in celebration of milestone events after a childhood of monitored nutrition.
Erik Hill
Kikkan Randall of the United States competes during a cross country ski, women's World Cup, 10-kilometer classic race, in Dobbiaco, Italy, Saturday, Feb.1, 2014.
Elvis Piazzi
United States' silver medal winner Kikkan Randall shows off her medal during the ceremony for the Women's Sprint Free race at the Cross Country competitions of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
Matthias Schrader
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
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall rides a unicycle as she makes an entrance to a school assembly at Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off the ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel) program.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Hundreds of Fast and Female girls from 9 to 19 years old gathered at Chugiak High on Saturday January 29, 2011. Fast and Female is in its third year and is designed to teach girls cross country skiing with fun games and inspire them to conquer the world. Olympic cross country skiers Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks were among the leaders.
Bob Hallinen
Kikkan Randall from the United States celebrates after winning the women's cross country 1,3 km free sprint World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011.
Petr David Josek
Avery Dunn has a poster signed by Olympic Skier Kikkan Randall after Dunn ran the 5k in the Salmon Run. Runners competed in the 2k, 5k or 10k distances in the Salmon Run on Saturday May 8, 2010 which started and finished at Inlet View Elementary School.
Bob Hallinen
Kikkan Randall is on the 2014 USA Olympic team.
Team USA
Kikkan Randall finishes the 5-mile timed portion of the Alaska Run for Women in first place at Anchorage Football Stadium. Over 7,000 runners and walkers participate in the Alaska Run for Women on Saturday, June 9, 2012.
Bob Hallinen
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall high-fives students after the school assembly at Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off the ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel) program.
Bill Roth
Kikkan Randall of the USA, right, wins the Free Sprint Final in front of second placed Natalia Matveeva of Russia, left, during the Cross Country World Cup in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. The World Cup is held on artificial snow in the heart of the western German city of Duesseldorf, close to the river Rhine.
Martin Meissner
Second placed Hanna Falk, right, from Sweden congratulates winner Kikkan Randall of the United States after the women's cross country 1,3 km free sprint World Cup event in Liberec, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011.
Petr David Josek
Seven year old Anthony Frank gets encouragement from Olympic Skier Kikkan Randall as he finishes the 5k in the Salmon Run. Runners competed in the 2k, 5k or 10k distances in the Salmon Run on Saturday May 8, 2010 which started and finished at Inlet View Elementary School. After Randall finished she went out on the final yards of the course and ran beside young people encouraging them to finish strong.
Bob Hallinen
Deborah and Ronn Randall, the parents of Olympic cross-country skier Kikkan Randall, watch their daughter compete in a race in Poland on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The pair was watching early in the morning from Deborah's East Anchorage condominium.
Nathaniel Herz
Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks cruise E Street as over 7,000 runners and walkers participate in the Alaska Run for Women on Saturday, June 9, 2012.
Erik Hill
Three-time Olympian and World Cup overall sprint champion Kikkan Randall competed in an obstacle course against students during a school assembly at Tyson Elementary in Mt. View on Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012, where she helped kick-off the ARISE (Anchorage Runners Inspired to Succeed and Excel) program.
Bill Roth

Kikkan Randall is chasing gold at the Winter Olympics not just because an Olympic medal is the only thing lacking from her resume.

She is doing it to make cross-country skiing cool.

Here in Alaska, she has already succeeded.

Randall, 31, is the woman we see around town with pink hair, perfect teeth, washboard abs and muscles to die for.

She is the special guest at elementary schools who enthralls kids with her own brand of show-and-tell -- she tells them to get active, then she shows them how much fun that can be, sometimes by riding a unicycle.

She is the backbone of the U.S. chapter of Fast and Female, a group that aims to empower girls and young women through sports.

She is the voice we have heard and the face we have seen for years on local commercials -- Matanuska Maid, Continental Motors, Healthy Futures and more.

She is the name bannered in headlines, sometimes week after week after week. Two-time World Cup sprint champion. Two-time World Championship medalist. Thirteen World Cup victories. Thirty World Cup podium appearances. Four Olympics.

While Anchorage doesn't really need a Pied Piper of nordic skiing -- the sport has long flourished here -- Randall figures the rest of the country does. And she figures the Sochi Olympics are the perfect place to show America there is nothing staid or boring about cross-country ski racing.

"For her, it's more than about what she's accomplished and what she's won," said Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

"She's determined to change the face of her sport in this country forever, and she's doing it through youth outreach, and she's doing it by supporting her teammates around her and (lifting them) to their best.

"She is a true leader."

She's also the right woman in the right race at the right time.

Randall's specialty is the sprint, an event introduced at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics -- the Games where Randall made her Olympic debut.

Held on a short course -- less than two kilometers, sometimes less than 1.5 kilometers -- much of the action can be seen from the stadium. The sprint is not an event where skiers disappear into the woods and return 30 minutes later.

The sprint is an all-day affair that begins in the morning with preliminaries, in which each skier races alone, against the clock. The fastest ones advance to what's known as the heats -- quarterfinal heats, semifinal heats, finals.

The racing is head-to-head in the heats, and it can be combative. Tangles and crashes are always a possibility. If nordic skiing ever makes it to the X Games, it will be because of the sprint.

Randall's personality is perfect for the heats -- long ago, she nicknamed herself Kikkanimal, a name that suits the ferocity she displays in competition -- and she thrives in the head-to-heat format.

Winning an Olympic medal could make Randall a household name, at least temporarily. Winning one in an event that defies the image many Americans have of nordic skiing could transform the sport permanently.

Randall has already started the process with her continued, unprecedented success in the last several years. She spent much of her off-season last year doing interviews and filming commercials, and now that the Olympics are here, the spots are getting air-time and the Lower 48 is getting to know her.

"It's really cool to finally see cross-country get on the map and have people get interested," Randall said. "This is a great opportunity to showcase our sport."

Much is being made about the possibility of Randall becoming the first American woman and the second American to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing (Vermont's Bill Koch won silver in 1976). The fact is, she's not the only American medal contender in Sochi, and that's in large part because of her influence on the U.S. Ski Team.

As Bodensteiner said, Randall has lifted her teammates to such heights that the U.S. women are a threat to medal in the relay, and some are poised to excel individually as well. On Saturday, Minnesota's Jessie Diggins and Vermont's Liz Stephen finished eighth and 12th, respectively, in the 15-kilometer pursuit, the first time in history the United States has put two women in the top 15 of an Olympic race.

"She's kind of set a wonderful tone," teammate Holly Brooks, a two-time Olympian from Anchorage, said earlier this season. "She doesn't act like she's a superstar and we're all underneath her. She's one of those people who is sometimes willing to change what she would do individually in order to work out with the team."

Sochi represents a bit of a crossroads for Randall, who once thought the 2014 Olympics would be the perfect time to end her racing career.

"I always thought by 2014 I would have done everything I wanted to do and be ready to move on," said Randall, who married Jeff Ellis, a former member of Canada's ski team, in 2008. "What I didn't realize is it takes so much hard work, and I'm finally at the fun part.

"I do want to start a family at some point, so I'm excited about that. I'd like to start a family and keep racing. Not many have done that, but there are a few."

A world-champion skier with a baby on board. How cool is that?

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

Following Kikkan

Kikkan Randall will compete in her specialty, the women's freestyle sprint, early Tuesday morning, Alaska time.

1 a.m.: Preliminary qualification

3 a.m.: Quarterfinals

3:56 a.m.: Semifinals

4:22 a.m.: Finals

To watch it live: Go to nbcolympics.com for livestream coverage. You'll need a GCI or some other pay-TV account to watch. If you're a GCI customer and don't have a user profile, give yourself enough time before the race starts to create one. A few minutes should be enough; be sure to have your account number.

 


By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com
Contact Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or on