Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From Sickbed To Success: Alaska Skier Kikkan Randall Kicks Ass And Wins Gold In Women's Cross-Country Ski Race In Italy

Screenshot from the video
On Sunday February 24th, 2013, Alaska skier Kikkan Randall showed the world just why Alaska Girls Kick Ass. At a world championship cross-country skiing event in Italy, Randall and her teammate Jessica Diggins routed other teams to win the women's team sprint. Randall herself powered ahead of her competitors from Sweden and Finland to win by an astonishing 7.8-second margin, which is exceptional in a race typically decided by tenths of a second.

Afterwards, Randall took a well-deserved bow and paid tribute to her teammate, saying "It feels incredible. This is something we've looked forward to for a long time. It's my seventh world championship and I've had to spend a lot of time watching award ceremonies, so we're pretty excited to do it, and in a team event especially, and to finally get us on the podium. That moment when your teammate comes running out (in the finish area), it starts to sink in that you're world champion."

What the media neglected to mention is that just under four years ago, in April 2008, not only was Kikkan Randall's skiing career in jeopardy, but her life could have been on the line as well. Randall was experiencing repeat episodes of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which impaired her ability to walk. She was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome -- a condition where the left iliac vein is squeezed so tightly by the right iliac artery that the pressure impedes the blood flow in the left leg. The syndrome often occurs among fit, young women, and is partly attributable to the curve of the female spine exerting pressure on the vein in tandem with a well-muscled back. This was complicated by the fact that Randall was also using a NuvaRing birth control device, which has now been shown to increase the risk of serious blood clots 35 times in women with Factor V Leiden. The symptoms can be slow to develop, so by the time they were detected in this case, Randall ended up bedridden and had to have clot-busting medication snaked directly into her veins. Her recovery required time in a wheelchair to avoid putting pressure on the leg and six months of blood-thinning medication before she could resume training. Alaska Dispatch interviewed her in April 2012:

When she's not skiing, Kikkan Randall works at Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage. In the off-season, one way she maintains physical fitness is by competing in the grueling annual Mount Marathon Race in Seward, and in 2011, she even won the women's title. Few people are more effective ambassadors of the Last Frontier than Kikkan Randall.

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