On Sunday Kikkan Randall finished 2nd in the freestyle sprint at the Holmenkollen Ski Stadium in Oslo, Norway. This was Kikkan’s third career World Cup podium finish along with her World Championship silver medal. Randall was coming off an excellent Olympics where she raced extremely well in every start. She took some time in the midst of a busy post-race evening to answer a few questions about the day.
1). You looked strong, relaxed and in control all day. Did you feel good out there?
I felt strong. Qualifying in the top 10 was a good sign. I felt like I laid a good time out there, but I’m usually even stronger in the rounds.
Between the quarters, semis and the final, I felt stronger every round. I had fast starts each time so I could get near the front and control the pace. I was able to accelerate at multiple points through the races and had strong finishes each time.
It’s fun to know that when I am on, and I feel strong, I can take on anyone in the world! (In a skate sprint).
2). In the final, you moved to the front early, but temporarily slipped back a little. How did that play out?
I got a good start and was in position to take the lead as we left the stadium. I was willing to do this, however, I was hoping someone else would lead so I could be ready to make a big move later in the race.
When Kowalcyzk took the lead it was perfect timing. Although going up the course’s big climb, I found her tempo a little too slow. I went to go out and around her but was tentative to make too aggressive a move with so much racing left. I stayed behind Kowalcyzk until we came into the stadium and was able to free-skate by her.
This is when I took the lead and hoped to hold it to the finish line. I kept in front going over the biathlon range and powered hard into the final downhill. As soon as I got over the final bridge I started free skating with everything I had. Then suddenly Bjorgen was powering up beside me in a V2. I realized too late to start poling and she got by.
3). You entered the finishing stretch just ahead of Bjoergen. She seems to be unstoppable right now. Were you hoping to have a bigger lead on her before the final 100 meters?
She had the advantage of a surprise attack on me and I didn’t see it coming. I felt it was an advantage having the lead going into the finish so I took my opportunity to get into the lead and went with it. Knowing how it played out now, I will be working on my high-speed finish ability for next year!!
4). Early in the race, on one of the first climbs, it looked like Kowalczyk may have stepped on your pole or bumped you – you almost went down, but recovered and did not lose any ground. What happened there? And did it take any extra energy to get straightened out?
I’m not totally sure what happened, but somehow my ski got clipped and I got turned sideways very quickly. I had just pulled up beside Kowalczyk and was contemplating passing her when it happened.
There was a split second of panic but thankfully I had really good momentum and was able to slip back in the train without losing any spots. Part of sprinting is just staying calm when something happens because there might be a chance to recover. Because I had good momentum, I don’t think it really cost me any extra effort.
5). You have been skiing great – at least based on your results. Were you confident heading into this race? I know it was your first skate sprint since before Christmas – were you excited to test your fitness in your strongest event?
I was confident going into the race, but it had also been so long since I had done an individual skate sprint at this level that it was hard to know for sure how ready I was. Drammen a couple days ago was a big disappointment and it got me wondering a bit about my peak from the Olympics wearing off. I was happy to find today that everything I needed was there.
It’s great to be able to compete in an event where I truly feel I can use everything I have. In classic sprints, I have a hard time using all my fitness and power. In skating, I can really dig deep and feel strong. I just wish I had more opportunities!!
6). Two podiums in less than a week for the US – how important is this for the program, especially with the general perception that the Olympics did not go well for the US?
I think the perception that the Olympics did not go well for our team is a little off base. Sure we didn’t win any medals. Were we capable of winning medals? No doubt. But to pin all our expectations on that was a little far fetched.
For me personally, I achieved all of my goals. I knew I would need a drastic improvement in classic sprinting just to crack into the semi-finals and I did that.
The team sprint is still a relatively untested event for us and I think we skied really well. I know some of our men’s team didn’t have the races they wanted but overall I think we can be really proud of the preparation that we put in and I know we gave it our all.
Certainly our podiums these last few days show that we are still contenders on the world stage. Everyone is still in great Olympic shape and with the strong nations group skiers here, these results make a big statement. Our team is strong!
And you can bet every one of us is more motivated than ever to improve upon our finishes and be medal contenders in Sochi.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.