As one of two cross-country representatives to the International Ski Federation’s (FIS’s) Athletes’ Commission, Kikkan Randall has taken the American spirit of democracy to Europe.
Along with Finland’s Sami Jauhojaervi, the sport’s other representative, Randall is seeking to create a committee of athletes within the sport of cross-country skiing, to better voice their opinions about changes to the sport. On Thursday, Randall and Jauhojaervi held a meeting with more than 20 skiers in Gallivare, Sweden, in advance of the World Cup opener, to float their proposal and discuss some of the usual off-season tweaks and rules updates.
In an interview, Randall said that FIS had made a number of changes in race formats over the past few years that had been tough on athletes—even though she did recognize that the alterations had helped grow a larger television audience.
“While some of the things are good,” she said, “most importantly, the season is about the athletes. This is their livelihood, so to keep changing things constantly has been less than ideal.”
A cross-country athletes’ commission, Randall said, would help FIS pass down information more effectively, and also allow the skiers to “band together” to express their views. One way Randall is hoping to facilitate that, she said, is by enhancing the use of an existing Facebook group to keep athletes better informed throughout the course of the off-season.
Randall and Jauhojaervi hope to have the commission created by this year’s World Championships in Oslo, Norway. Twenty-four athletes from six countries attended the meeting in Gallivare, and they will now return to their teams to discuss the idea and designate their own representatives.
While Randall has taken a vocal role in her position, she said that her counterpart, Jauhojaervi, was also a “huge asset.”
In addition to Finnish, Jauhojaervi speaks Swedish, German, and English, and he has been racing at an elite level for nearly a decade. According to Randall, he’s got “that traditional European perspective.”
“The two of us make a pretty good team, and I’m really psyched to have him as my partner,” she said.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.