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Olympics notebook: Kikkan Randall makes news for being a mom; Ashley Wagner doesn’t hold back

  • Author: Beth Bragg
    | Sports
  • Updated: February 13
  • Published February 12

Kikkan Randall tucks on a downhill in the women’s 15K skiathlon Saturday in South Korea. (REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler)

At her fifth and final Winter Olympics, Kikkan Randall is in the news for things other than her skiing.

At the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, Randall was labeled a medal contender by much of the news media. At the 2018 Olympics, her status as the mother of a toddler is attracting attention.

There are 20 dads on the 244-member U.S. Olympic team, but Randall, 35, is the only mom.

She and husband Jeff Ellis welcomed their little boy, Breck, in April 2016. Randall took a year off from competition during her pregnancy but was back on the World Cup circuit in the winter of 2016-17. She proved mothers can be world-class athletes by winning a bronze medal at last year's World Championships.

Plenty of Alaskans have witnessed Randall's evolution from athlete to mother/athlete. At the 2016 Run for Women, Randall pushed Breck, then an infant, in a stroller for the 5-mile race. At the 2017 Run for Women, she won the race.

This week her story is being shared with a bigger audience.

Writes the Globe: "With openness in talking about a subject that for so long was never discussed and with abilities that for so long were assumed to disappear after delivering a child, Randall carries a message of female empowerment that is timely, necessary, and welcome in today's sea-changing female awakening movement."

Randall has been an advocate for mothers on the World Cup circuit and helped in the effort to create spaces at race venues where mothers can feed and otherwise tend to their small children.

In an interview at the start of the season, she said she and Ellis hope to have another child after Pyeongchang. She is retiring after the ski season ends and soon after that, she and her family are moving to Penticton, British Columbia. Ellis, who is from Canada, has a job lined up there with a bicycle company.

"We sold our house and we're feeling more ready by the minute," she said. "It feels weird (to leave Alaska), but I'm up for the adventure."

See Kikkan run (in IOC election)

When she isn't training or racing in Pyeongchang, Kikkan Randall is running for office.

She has been an athlete representative on the International Ski Federation for the last eight years and now she's one of six Winter Olympics athletes bidding for a spot as an athlete representative for the International Olympic Committee.  Pyeongchang athletes can cast votes in the electrion through Feb. 21.

"I've always been curious about how sports work — who makes the decisions — and I want to make sure athletes are part of the process," Randall said.

Advocacy has long been part of Randall's DNA. As an eighth-grader at Wendler, Randall helped create a group called Young Adults Taking Action after the Anchorage School District decided to replace interscholastic sports with intramural sports. Randall and her friends were so successful the district didn't just keep interscholastic sports, it added intramural sports.

Social networking

Observations and thoughts shared by Alaska's Olympians on social media:

Sadie Bjornsen on Instagram before Tuesday night's classic sprint race: Time to take the layers off, and jump into my race suit to get this party started! #classicsprint #staywarm

Rosie Mancari on Instagram before the start of snowboardcross training: Ready for takeoff! We have training the next two days, a day off to cheer for the boys competing, and then on the 16th (in Korea) it's go time for us ladies!

Caitlin Patterson after making her Olympic debut in the women's 15K skiathlon: Proud to represent the USA, and proud of this team for giving it everything we had in the women's 15k skiathlon. Even with plenty of rough patches and tough moments (it wouldn't be xc skiing without those), it was fun and we're smiling at the finish!

Twitter recommendation

Figure skater Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) doesn't hold back when discussing the competition in Pyeongchang, and she's evoked some lively discussions with her frank opinions on the scoring system and some of the performances.

Wagner grew up in Eagle River and learned to skate here. She was a top novice skater while here and her career advanced after her military family moved to the Lower 48 when she was about 12.

She skated at the 2014 Olympics, winning a bronze in the team event, and was a big part of the pre-Olympic TV hype for Pyeongchang before failing to make the U.S. team at last month's national championships.

A sample comment from Wagner about Russia's Alina Zagitova, who puts all of her jumps in the second half of her program to maximize her scoring potential:

"Ok. I respect the competitive approach. But no cannot do this set up. It's not a program. She killed time in the beginning and then just jumped the second half. It's not a performance. I understand that this is what the system allows but it's not all figure skating is about."

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