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SOCHI, Russia – On Thursday, American cross-country skier Kikkan Randall spoke with FasterSkier by phone, two days after her surprising elimination in the quarterfinals of the freestyle sprint at the Olympics, which she’d been favored to win. She talked about how she’d been buoyed by her fans, her attitude in the days after the race, and her preparation for the rest of the events at the games.
FasterSkier: What have you been up to since the race?
Kikkan Randall: Well, we were just kind of hanging out, skiing a little bit–just hoping to come up and watch the race with my family today. It’s kind of funny–everything was really focused on the sprint race and getting through that, and after that there wasn’t a whole lot of a plan.
FS: How are you feeling?
KR: There’s been a lot of thoughts running through my head. It kind of comes and goes. I think Tuesday was definitely, just, like, kind of in shock. I don’t think it had really sunk in yet. And, yesterday was definitely a roller coaster. I feel like I have a good perspective–it didn’t go the way I wanted, but I was happy with the way I came into the race and the effort I gave. And then there’s just times it catches up to me a little bit, and I just almost feel sick to my stomach. But thankfully, those moments pass and I just get back to focusing on my next shot.
FS: You’ve said the feedback has been great–can you describe it?
KR: It’s been emails, it’s been messages through my website. It’s been Facebook, it’s been Twitter–just, everybody reminding me that they were really impressed with the journey, and sad that it didn’t go as well as we’d hoped, but that one day isn’t going to define my career, and that I’ve done a lot of good things and inspired a lot of people.
One of the coolest ones I’ve seen was an 11-year-old girl from Anchorage who wrote me to say she wore her Fast and Female t-shirt to school on Tuesday, because I still had a smile at the finish. She said she was inspired, and it’s messages like that that are incredible, because you’re so focused on your performance you forget the impact it has.
FS: Do you have any new thoughts about the race, now that you’ve had a little time to digest it?
KR: A few little things–some observations from some other people. You know, I just happened to land in a really tough heat. And it was kind of an uncharacteristic day out there, just with the conditions and the course, and the fact that three of the big favorites weren’t in the final.
It just came down to such an incredibly close margin. In wondering, ‘Why couldn’t I just have found a little bit more, and lunged a little bit more at the line?’…No matter what, you’re going to feel that way. And that’s just sprinting, man, it’s so fast. If you’re in shape to win a 10 (kilometer race), you’ve got 30 minutes to go through things out there. And in sprint, it’s a blink of an eye. It’s just the nature of the event.
It’s tough when you get one shot and one chance like that, but I still know that everything is good in my life, and I think–it’s definitely hard, but every time it gets hard I just remind myself of all the good things that came into getting here, and all the good things that’ll still come out of what I’ve done.
FS: You mentioned on social media that your family has been around–what’s that been like?
KR: I got to go hang out in the stands with them (on Tuesday). We watched the flower ceremony, and I got to see them that evening. It just helps ground you and reminds you it’s just a race. I’m still the same person I was before the race. I’ve got incredible support, and to have that kind of support directly around you–my family’s been amazing. Having coaches here, having (husband) Jeff (Ellis) here–everybody’s definitely just been great.
And I’m so glad they were here. If it had gone exactly as we’d hoped, it would have been amazing. But it’s almost more important to have them here if it doesn’t go well. They love me no matter what, so that means a lot.
FS: You’re not racing in the 10 k–what’s your plan for the rest of the Olympics?
KR: My hope is to race everything from here on, outside of today. (The 10 k) was kind of a tough one–I kind of had to make the call a few days ago, and I just felt like the sprint was going to take a lot for the prep, and the recovery.
My next most important goal is the relay, and I wanted to make sure I had the best race possible. I did some good intervals out on the course today–I’m really excited.
FS: How did you feel?
KR: I felt good. I had a good, strong workout out there. I can tell that my fitness is still really good. My shape is good. So I’m looking forward to the relay with a whole lot of confidence. It was good to be able to kind of switch gears immediately after the sprint, and have something new to focus on.
FS: Even though the sprint didn’t go the way you wanted, are you feeling relieved, in some way?
KR: A little bit. For sure, there was a lot of anticipation and a lot of mental prep going into the sprint, so when it switches gears to team events it definitely is a different preparation. I still think about the sprint race a lot, and that brings its own emotions, energy. But yeah, it’s done, and I’m looking forward to the next thing.
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.