Skier. Mother. Adversity Overcomer.
Kikkan Randall is a world-champion cross-country skier, and a trailblazing role model for female athletes around the world. After she retired in 2018, she faced her biggest challenge yet. With the love and support of her husband Jeff and son Breck, Kikkan was able to add breast cancer to the list of challenges overcome.
L.L.Bean: You’ve had to overcome a lot, both during your career and after. How did your athletic experience help you during your cancer fight?
Kikkan: Over the course of my career, it wasn’t a total smooth ride to the top. There were a lot of times when I felt on track, only to be derailed by an illness or injury. I had a major blood clot in my leg in 2008. I battled a stress fracture in 2013. But getting through it and getting to the top allowed me to experience that exhilarating downhill.
And so, as I was facing cancer, I tried to think about it the same way. Okay, this is going to be challenging. But we’re gonna just do it one step at a time. All the best things in my life have come after something hard.
L.L.Bean: Speaking of the best things in life – how does it feel to spend time with your family these days, after all you’ve been through?
Kikkan: I just feel like life is more complete when I’m out doing stuff with Jeff and Breck. Now more than ever, I just can’t wait to get out and do all the things I love with those guys. I was marveling at the clouds the other day. The shimmer off the water. They’re the simplest moments, but they’re so much more meaningful now.
L.L.Bean: When you were competing against the best skiers in the world, how important was it to have a team atmosphere?
Kikkan: So, when I first starting having success on the World Cup circuit, I was the only woman representing the U.S. And as much as I enjoyed the experience, I wanted to do it as a team. That motivated me to go out and rally the top girls from around the country, to get together and build something. That was the best way to raise the bar, to create that camaraderie, this family that would support you on the road for five months of the year. And now, knowing what we’ve done to create a new platform, the next generation will take it far beyond what we’ve even thought was possible. It’s just so cool.
L.L.Bean: When you decided to have Breck, it required taking a year off from competing. How hard was this decision?
Kikkan: Jeff and I were really anxious to start a family. But I wasn’t quite ready to walk away from skiing. So we sat down and said well, maybe there’s a way to do both. For female athletes, it’s often seen as an either/or. You’re not guaranteed a spot on the team when you come back. We thought it would absolutely be worth the risk – no matter what, I get to come home to this little baby that’s excited and happy to see me. And when we had Breck, Jeff was able to be there at home, while I was out training. It was a nice balance.
L.L.Bean: Now that you’ve retired at the top of your sport, what are you most looking forward to?
Kikkan: Because of these moments where I almost had my ability to spend time outside taken away, it reminds me how much that is at the core of who I am. So I plan on being out there, with the people I love, as often as humanly possible!