The commentator was almost enough to turn it off. His screaming spilled through the screen, crashing over the voice of the other commentator: this moment was HUGE. After a 42 year drought, the United States wins gold in cross-country skiing. A mere .19 seconds separated Jessie Diggins from the Swedish team following in second behind her. Diggins’ teammate, Kikkan Randall, wins her first gold medal ever – this being her fifth appearance in the Olympic Winter Games and the last event of her last appearance.
Kikkan Randall and I grew up in the same town, which upon watching her teammate sprint to the finish line, gives me goosebumps. Hardly running in the same circles or even the same sides of town, I’ve only met her once – when I was 11. She visited my elementary school to campaign for a now-defunct health program my school district had once implemented. We, as fifth graders, had to work out with Olympian Kikkan Randall. And it sucked ass.
Now, years later, the woman who once put me through the worst workout of my life is an Olympic Gold Medalist. An Olympic Gold Medalist at 35. An Olympic Gold Medalist as a mother. Through her previous four appearances in the Olympic games, she was always favored as a gold medal favorite, despite ever accomplishing that feat… until now.
For the past two weeks, the news of the world has bogged me down. Even in my own little world of modeling, I am constantly angry and hardly ever surprised. To be honest, I met Kikkan’s event with the same pessimism. The United States has been overwhelmingly disappointing in the winter games and I kind of assumed that she wouldn’t place. The odds were stacked against her. But she did. And I watched as my skin constricted, making my hair stand on end, and my eyes well up with tears, reminding me that there is a place in this world for the positively unbelievable – for Kikkan Randall – for, after years of digging, gold.
Growing up in Alaska is not for the faint of heart. It is a place that is underserved, ignored, and somewhat misunderstood. Even though the state I call home has declined in many ways, I still call it home and do so for the reason that Alaskans make me proud. The odds are rarely in our favor, yet there is success. Success following years and years of perseverance, but still success.
I’ve been uninspired. Looking around, I see the frustrations of the world manifesting in ways that are the ugliest. These uglies scare me into a depression, rendering me motionless as I find my only state to be a curled up ball of fear. And I think that’s enough of that. Because Kikkan Randall, the 35 year old mother who, when she was 22, told me to keep pushing myself, just won her first goddamn gold medal in the Olympics. Now, 13 years later, I can see why.
Thanks, Kikkan. Keep kickin’. I will, too.