Lone Team USA Mom Narrowly Misses Olympic Medal

Kikkan Randall, a three-time winner of cross-country skiing’s World Cup sprint title and the lone mother representing Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics, narrowly missed earning a medal in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Nicknamed “Kikkanimal,” Randall and her American teammates finished fifth in the 4x5 kilometer relay, missing the podium by just 36.8 seconds. It was the best Olympic finish ever for the American women in a relay, which consists of four legs with each skier completing one 5-kilometer lap. No American woman has ever won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing, and no American has medaled in cross-country skiing since Bill Koch won a silver in a 30-kilometer race in 1976.

“While we tend to be really focused on the medals, we know deep in our hearts it’s so possible,” Randall said according to a Team USA report about the elusive medal. “I still think it was amazing to put together four strong legs today and to get that best-ever result and keep the pathway going forward.”

Participating in her fifth Olympic games, the 35-year-old Randall also finished 16th in the 10K Freestyle and 40th in the Skiathlon. As a mother to her son, Breck, Randall has a different perspective on competition than she did at her first Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002.

"It's been a really fun adventure, blending full time parenting and motherhood," Randall said in an interview before the Olympics with KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska. “Knowing this is my last shot – I'm kind of trying to put everything in, but not forget to enjoy it a little bit because you certainly prepare, put your head down and you are gritting your teeth, but the Olympics is a pretty special experience."

The political and sports blog FiveThirtyEight, whose name is derived from the number of electors in the United States electoral college, noted that 20 fathers were part of Team USA but featured Randall’s story in comparison to mother athletes from other countries who have the benefit of paid maternity leave.

“There’s no such thing as a part-time return to work in elite sports, which usually require multiple training sessions each day, along with naps, massages, full nights of sleep, and other recovery rituals,” wrote author Christie Aschwanden. “Of course, sleepless nights are almost a given for the first years of a child’s life.”

Acknowledging that her current training regimen is unsustainable in the future, Randall plans to retire after this racing season, but she is still excited about the future of cross-country skiing for U.S. women.

“We had to leave something for the next generation to go after,” she said. “There’s a really awesome young group of girls coming up…so I think there’s high hopes, and we can hopefully leave a good path for them.”

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