Kikkan Randall’s season hasn’t started, but she’s already claimed her first victory: healing the stress fracture in her right foot in time for the first World Cup race of the winter.
Randall will compete in Saturday morning’s 10-kilometer freestyle opener in northern Sweden—her first race after several months of modified training, and coming little more than a week after she resumed hard interval sessions.
The presence of the defending World Cup sprint champion on the start list will round out an American women’s team fresh off a muscular performance at tune-up races in Finland last weekend. But Randall said she’s unsure of how she’ll stack up.
“My race performance is a big question mark at this point,” she said in an email Thursday. “I’m guessing it may take a few weeks for my race gear to come around.”
Randall said she was barred from doing hard skiing and bounding sessions while her foot healed.
In an interview last month, her coach, Erik Flora, said that Randall had modified her training schedule after the injury, to include more hours during the first part of the racing season.
He expects Randall will be “back to the Kikkan we saw last season” in time for World Championships in late February—but he agreed that it may take a few weeks for her to get there.
“You’ll probably see a bit of a slow start, and then back to full swing by midwinter,” Flora said. “The performance at World Championships—I think she should be in a good place.”
Randall said that she would like to compete in both races in Sweden this weekend–though with five women competing on Saturday, the Americans will wait to see results before selecting the lineup for Sunday’s four-person relay.
Even if she’s not picked for the team, the 29-year-old Alaskan said she would be out for a hard ski—part of the process of racing her way back into shape.
“Either way, I plan to race 5 kilometers hard on Sunday,” Randall said, “whether as part of the relay, or as a time trial on my own.”
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.