Cross-country skier Kikkan Randall reaps the rewards of fame
Reporting from Chicago -- Cross-country skiing is enormously popular in Europe but has a much lower profile here. Alaskan Kikkan Randall, who last year became the first American woman to win a World Cup race when she triumphed in a sprint at Rybinsk, Russia, is doing her best to bring attention to her sport.
It goes beyond the bright, magenta streaks in her blond hair. With major corporations more likely to back athletes in glamor sports like figure skating and alpine skiing, she and her peers have had to be creative in finding sponsors to support them and their sport.
"We can't go after the big corporate dollars that other sports do, so we try to find ways to partner with what our sport represents, and that's a healthy, active lifestyle," the Anchorage resident said today at the U.S. Olympic media summit. "We can represent a lot of positive things that way. So we're partnering with people who want to get involved in that.
"We'd love to have more support. I think more support would eventually turn into better results. But we're not going to let that affect our motivation."
Randall, whose ninth-place finish in the 2006 Olympic sprint event was the best ever by a U.S. woman, has had endorsement deals with Subway, a local dairy and local healthcare providers. "I get recognized in the grocery store, usually either as the milk girl or the Subway girl," she said.
"I was asked last fall when Sarah Palin was campaigning for the vice presidency to step in for her on a fish recipe judging contest. I figure that probably rated me pretty well in terms of local importance. I get invited to celebrity softball. I get to experience a little of that. I'm just happy I've been given the spotlight to put forth things I know are important."
But can she see Russia from her home?
"Not quite," she said, laughing.
Palin, the former Alaska governor, has "a lot of charisma. She's brought a lot of attention to Alaska, and Alaskans are proud."
More later from the Olympic media summit.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: U.S. cross-country skiing hopeful Kikkan Randall poses for a portrait during the U.S. Olympic Committee media summit. Credit: Guy Rhodes / US Presswire