Crash Course: Kikkan Randall was under significant pressure to end the American drought in cross-country skiing. New Hampshire's Bill Koch won a silver medal in the discipline in 1976, and no American—male or female—has won since. Randall was the favorite to win the 1.2-kilometer sprint, but she fell short in the quarterfinals. She still has a chance to end the medal drought as part of the American 4 x 5,000 relay team Feb. 15. Randall, an Alaska native, can take comfort in her favorite vacation spot of Italy after the Olympics.
Athletic Profile: Randall, 31, is competing in her fourth Olympics. She had improved each time prior to Sochi, going from 44th in 2002, to ninth in 2006, to sixth in 2010. Randall simply ran out of gas in the final stages of the race as she led the event early, but three skiers passed her down the stretch. She missed advancing from the "lucky loser" category by seven-hundredths of a second. Randall became the first American woman to win a World Cup discipline by finishing on top in the sprint standings in 2012. She also won five World Cup events in 2013.
Name Game: Randall's unusual first name is the result of a compromise between her parents. Her father wanted to name her after 1976 Olympic Alpine skier Christina "Kiki" Cutter, while her mother wanted to name her Megan. They combined the two and came up with Kikkan. Additionally, when Randall first started getting interested in athletics in middle school, she became enamored with the late former distance runner Steve Prefontaine. His philosophy was to leave everything on the track every time he competed, and he was often called an animal when he was on the track. Randall has tried to do the same thing, and that has earned her the nickname of "Kikkanimal."
Off the Course: When Randall's career comes to an end, look for her to get involved in sports marketing. Also, she has other talents besides cross-country skiing. She can ride a unicycle and even juggle while she's on it. Randall understands the benefits of combining training with a healthy diet, but she can't resist a maple-glazed donut.
Quote: "Not only does every single girl on this team have Kikkan as her idol, but so does every little girl out there also. I can't put into words how much she has done for this sport."—U.S. cross-country skier Sophie Caldwell on Randall's importance to cross-country skiing (via USA Today).