Meet Kikkan Randall, or “Kikkanimal,” a cross-country skier who has earned six “firsts” throughout her career and made an incredible comeback this past week in Pyeongchang. It took five Olympics – 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 – for Randall to make history as a part of the first female US cross-country ski team to win a gold medal.
Randall has previously only placed sixth or lower at the Olympic Games, but she earned her first career gold medal in the 2018 Winter Games alongside teammate Jessica Diggins in the team sprint free final.
Randall was born in Salt Lake City, Utah but grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. Her new hometown became the perfect place for ski training. Skiing runs in the family – Randall is also the niece of two previous Olympians, Chris and Betsy Haines.
In addition, she married Canadian skier Jeff Ellis and is the only mother competing for Team USA in the Pyeongchang Olympics. She doesn’t see motherhood as a physical obstacle but instead views it as a motivator. Through her efforts, Randall hopes to inspire other moms who want to remain active after having children.
“It’s been so fun. This family on this team has been helping me raise Breck,” Randall told Today. “It’s just so cool. I hope it gives a lot of inspiration to all the moms out there that you can come back to being active and physical and stronger than you’ve ever been.”
During their event, Diggins and Randall finished at 15:56.47, 26 seconds ahead of their semi-final time. The two were so excited that Randall tackled Diggins to the ground after they finished.
“Oh my gosh, did we just win the Olympics?!” Randall said.
Although Randall didn’t know what to expect, she remained confident in Diggins’ abilities throughout the race.
“I had so much adrenaline as she was coming down, but if there’s anybody I’d have 100 percent faith in coming down that finishing stretch as fast as possible, it’s Jessie,” said Randall.
In a KTUU interview, Randall explained how, despite the challenging nature of the Olympics, she hopes to enjoy her final Games.
“Knowing this is my last shot – I’m kind of trying to put everything in, but not forget to enjoy it a little bit,” said Randall. “Because you certainly prepare, put your head down and you are gritting your teeth, but the Olympics is a pretty special experience.”
Randall is also the president of Fast and Female, a women’s empowerment agency targeted towards 8-to-18-year-old female athletes. The organization hosts non-competitive events and seeks to help young women develop leadership skills. She is also part of Healthy Futures and Protect our Winters. Others, including Tiger Shaw, have recognized Randall’s contributions to the athletic world.
“Kikkan has had a very strong impact across many sports as both a role model and a leader of athletes,” said Olympian and president and CEO of US Ski & Snowboard Tiger Shaw. “Her engagement with youth has become a hallmark, touching thousands of young girls through both her results as an athlete and a leader with Healthy Futures, and Fast and Female.”
Furthermore, Randall was recently elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, a 20-person commission that serves as a liaison between athletes and the International Olympic Committee. She will serve an eight-year term and also become a member of the United States Olympic Committee board of directors.
Many Olympic viewers may not know about Randall’s health history. Doctors diagnosed the skier with a major blood clot in her left leg in 2008, but she didn’t let the diagnosis stop her. Randall won the first US Women’s World Championship medal – silver – during the 2009 World Championships in the Czech Republic.
In her spare time, Randall runs a blog about her new life as a mother and her rigorous ski training. Her younger brother Tanner Randall also recently wrote a children’s book about her Olympic journey: The Kikkanimal.
Randall serves as an inspirational role model both within and outside the sports community. Although she will retire from an Olympic career soon, her legacy lives on.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter