Olympic notebook: Ski spokesman goes pink for Kikkan

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: February 25
  • Published February 24

Kikkan Randall isn’t the person sporting pink hair in the aftermath of her Olympic gold medal.  (Soobum Im / USA TODAY Sports)

This year marks 30 years since Tom Kelly became the head of public relations for the U.S. Ski Team, and you'd think he would've learned something in that time.

But no. Kelly is walking around Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a pink beard and mustache (and maybe pink hair too, but he is seldom without his trademark cowboy hat and he doesn't have a lot of hair anyway, so who knows?).

Kelly owes the new look to Anchorage's Kikkan Randall, a five-time Olympian whose pink highlights have been part of her brand for nearly her entire career.

Before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Kelly told Randall that if she won an Olympic medal, he'd dye his hair pink. The offer stood for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and this year's Pyeongchang Olympics, and when Randall struck gold with Jessie Diggins in the team sprint, Kelly fulfilled his end of the deal.

This isn't the first time Kelly has been in the pink thanks to the success of an Alaska athlete. Girdwood snowboarder Rosey Fletcher, whose hair was a kaleidoscope of color during her racing days, was the reason Kelly went pink at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

"It goes back to 1999 World Snowboard Champs in Berchtesgaden, Germany," Kelly, the vice president of communications for the USSA, said by email. "Rosey Fletcher was doing hair dye one night. I was next. Then I chickened out but told her I would do it when she won an Olympic medal — which she did seven years later."

Kelly said he struck the same bargain with Nevada moguls skier Shannon Bahrke before the 2010 Olympics. Bahrke won bronze, and Kelly went pink again.

Now he's done it a third time, this time with Randall on hand to supervise at the hair salon in the Athletes Village.

Ex-UAA skier arrested, released

Dave Duncan, who became an Olympic skicross racer after four years on the UAA alpine team, was arrested and released by Pyeongchang police after what is being described as a "drunken joyride" in a stolen Hummer.

Duncan, his wife Maja Magrethe Duncan and coach Willy Raine were released after an investigation, according to a statement from the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The Canadian Press, citing an interview with a detective with the Gangwon Provincial Police, reported that the three were arrested for allegedly stealing a car and driving drunk.

Dave Duncan (top, in orange jersey) finished eighth in men’s skicross. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters)

"We are deeply sorry. We engaged in behavior that demonstrated poor judgement and was not up to the standards expected of us as Members of the Canadian Olympic Team or as Canadians," the Duncans said in a joint statement released by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The detective told the Canadian Press that "the manager," not Duncan, was driving. According to the Canadian Press, the detective said the driver had a blood alcohol level of .162, well above South Korea's legal limit of .05.

"Words are not enough to express how sorry I am," Raine said in a prepared statement. "I have let my teammates, friends and my family down. I would also like to apologize to the owner of the vehicle that was involved.

Duncan, a three-time Olympian who lives in British Columbia, finished eighth in the men's skicross. It wasn't clear Saturday whether he will be detained in the country after the Olympics.

Drunk drivers in South Korea can face up to three years in prison or a fine up to $11,750 Canadian, according to the Canadian Press.

Truthiness in advertising

The gold medal for Olympic-theme commercials goes to Comcast for its TV ad featuring Jessie Diggins.

The ad is one of those commercials that'll make you cry if you have even the semblance of a heart. It shows people in Diggins' hometown of Afton, Minnesota (population 2,886) waking up at 3 a.m. to watch their hometown hero race several time zones away.

But it appears any accolades for the commericial should come with an asterisk.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, most of the exterior scenes weren't shot in Afton. They were shot in nearby Stillwater (population 19,292), where Diggins went to high school.

Scott Patterson, center, follows Sweden’s Daniel Rickardsson en route to the best 50K finish in Olympic history by an American man. (Michael Madrid / USA TODAY Sports)

The 50K tradition

Scott Patterson's 11th-place finish in the 50-kilometer classic inspired a dive into the record books to see if any American had ever done better in that race at the Olympics.

The answer was no, but the research reminded us that the U.S. experienced its first golden age of cross-country skiing — the second one is happening now — back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The American men, led by Bill Koch, were a force back then. Koch won the country's first (and until this year, the only) Olympic medal in the sport in 1976, and he was part of a strong team that also included Jim Galanes, formerly of Anchorage, and Audun Endestad of Fairbanks.

In the 50K race at the 1980 Olympics, Koch placed 13th and Galanes 20th. In the same race at the 1984 Olympics, Koch was 17th and Endestad 18th.

By the way, it was simply called the 50K back then. Not the 50K classic, or the 50K freestyle.

The freestyle technique was first used at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Koch popularized the technique — some say he invented it — in the early 80s.

For awhile, Koch skated during classic events, because the technique was so new there was no rule against using it in a race where everyone else was using the classic technique.