By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Having crowned her long career with America’s first ever Olympic cross-country gold in the sprint relay in Pyeongchang, Kikkan Randall plans to use her new-found fame to inspire the next generation.
At her fifth Olympics in her final season as a competitor, Randall teamed up with Jessica Diggins for a victory that sent the duo’s media profile into overdrive.
“I’ve always really cherished the opportunity to be a role model, I had amazing role models that really inspired me growing up,” Randall told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“That gold medal really I think elevated our position to affect even more kids out there, or every age level – people who want to get more healthy (or) … want to chase after something.”
The 35-year-old said her election to the International Olympic Committee’s Ethics Commission marked the first step in a post-competition career that is still taking shape.
“I’ve got a lot of things to figure out… I’ve always been really passionate about sport and how I can be involved to make it better,” she said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Games, Randall and Diggins were engaged in what she calls a “whirlwind” of media appearances and meetings in New York as the U.S. ski federation attempts to leverage their achievements.
Randall appears amenable to that too, and has ambitions to strengthen International Olympic Committee support mechanisms for elite athletes “both through their careers and after their careers, because they commit their lives to the Olympics.”
Randall also hopes some of her legendary single-mindedness in pursuit of her dream can rub off on the next generation of girls and women.
“Girls operate a lot on social belonging, and so if they don’t have the right group to be a part of…. if they don’t have the right support, whether it’s coaching or parents, then they kind of get lost in there,” she said.
“…Girls are kind of different from boys when they meet their role models in person, that can really make a (dramatic)… impression on them.”
Whatever roads her career takes her down next, memories of that Olympic victory will never be far behind. “It all came together on a magical day.”
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by John Stonestreet)