Alaska Pacific University skier Kikkan Randall has spent three years on top of the World Cup sprint standings. This season has been different- she’s struggled to make even the top ten in races. Randall’s back in Europe now, after spending a few weeks in Anchorage to regroup.
Kikkan Randall was skeptical when her coach Erik Flora suggested she fly back to Anchorage from Europe in the middle of the World Cup racing season:
“At first, I have to admit, I thought he was a little crazy.”
But she came around to the idea of having a chance to refocus in the comfort of her home city. She says she ate seafood, played with her cats, and trained at Kincaid and Hillside:
“It was really, really good. Just to see friends and family and get back in a good training environment. I really feel like it was the break I needed.”
Randall’s early results on the World Cup have been disappointing. Her best finish so far is 9th in a sprint race in December in Switzerland. Randall is coming off last year’s Olympics, where she was the favorite to win gold in the skate sprint, but finished far out of the medals. Then in the spring and summer, she thinks she trained too hard, hoping to prove she could peak properly for this year’s World Championships:
“I don’t think I rested enough coming off of a big Olympic year and just carried too much fatigue into the summer and the fall. And by the time I realized I was under some fatigue, we were already in the racing season so I was trying to balance resting with the racing and it hasn’t allowed me to find my peak form.”
Until this year, Randall’s career has been a steady progression to become the best female sprint skier in the world. She says things were going so well, she got a little complacent thinking that trend would continue. Now she’s experiencing a new kind of challenge- not performing to her own, or the world’s, expectations:
“I’ve been laughing a little bit because I often talk in presentations about the importance of focusing on the positive and focusing on the process and the little things you can do each day to build up to your goals, and I feel like I’ve been having to listen to my own advice a little bit.”
The big goal this season is the World Championships, which start in Falun, Sweden on February 18th. Randall and her U.S. teammate Jessie Diggins are the defending world champions in the team sprint event. Randall says its a gamble whether her form will be back to 100 percent but she’s excited to get back to racing:
“I don’t really plan to put hard expectations down. I think I just want to make sure my body is in a good place and go out and race with what I have and if things go well, it could be some good results.”
Alaska Pacific University head coach Erik Flora isn’t worried about Randall’s performance. He says it’s common for elite athletes who have long term success to occasionally take a step back and have a rebuilding year. He says in the long run, one sub-par season shouldn’t matter much for Randall’s career, even if it’s hard to see it that way right now:
“With Sochi being a fairly big goal and a lot of the training leading up to it, post Sochi taking a year to adjust, having a bit of an off year, I’m sure when we look back on it, it’s not a big deal at all.”
Flora says the APU ski team as a whole is having one of it’s best season’s ever, with breakout performances on the World Cup from Rosie Brennan and Sadie Bjornsen. Both will compete in the World Championships alongside Kikkan Randall who is thrilled by the success of her teammates.