So much has happened since the season began in November that it’s easy to forget that, prior the first World Cup of 2012-2013, Kikkan Randall didn’t know whether she’d be able to even come close to matching her performances from the season before. An autumn injury prevented the American sprinter from training at full capacity and there was doubt in her mind as to whether she could compete at the same level that had first earned her the crystal globe the year before.
“When I was injured this fall, I didn’t know if I would be able to be in contention for the globe again this year,” Randall wrote in an email to the press on Wednesday after the last sprint of the year concluded in Stockholm, Sweden.
Fast forward a few months. Randall not only matched her level of competitiveness from last year, she actually exceeded it in certain respects. She locked down the sprint globe this year a full weekend ahead of last year’s schedule when she created an insurmountable gap in the sprint rankings with her win in Lahti, Finland, two weeks ago. The tenth and final sprint of the regular World Cup took place in Stockholm on Wednesday, whereupon Randall was presented with a second crystal globe to add to her collection.
She noted it was a little strange to walk up to the podium after only finishing 22nd in that day’s classic competition, but the scenario actually highlights an interesting point about Randall’s achievement. The title of Best Sprinter in the World belongs to her in spite of the fact that her classic form was less than where she wanted it to be and, more importantly, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t able to follow her usual training plan this fall. The setback may have shown through with her distance skiing towards the end of the season but this was not the case with her skate sprinting. Out of ten sprints events on the World Cup calendar, five of them are freestyle. Randall lost only one of those, when she finished second in Canmore, Alberta. She didn’t face her toughest challenger, Marit Bjoergen (NOR), until the final skate sprint of the year, but her speed was still in a place then to put her on top of the world.
“I’m so grateful to have recovered and to have been competitive the whole season,” Randall said. “The feeling of the second one is definitely different than the first. Last year, I felt so wide-eyed and giddy. This year feels a little more familiar and a nice validation that last year wasn’t just a fluke. It was great to have the King of Sweden present the awards again and it’s always an amazing feeling to hear our national anthem played out loud.”
U.S. Ski Team women’s coach Matt Whitcomb said that even though they’ve known the title was Randall’s for weeks, it was still immensely fulfilling to finally see it awarded to her.
“Maybe the immediate excitement has worn off a bit but the accomplishment hasn’t at all,” he said. “I think you saw that today, when you had all the American athletes mixed in with the Eurosport cameras and everybody else, fighting for photos and cheering her on… The magnitude is pretty big for our team, and we all realize that.”
Randall was appreciated for the cheers from her teammates as she stood on the podium.
“I just wish I could bring all of our coaches, staff and my teammates up on that podium to share the moment with me,” she said. “A bunch of my teammates stayed a couple extra hours after their races to be there for the awards presentation and I am so grateful for their support.”