For Kikkan Randall, a hero’s homecoming. Then, an alarming discovery.
Part 1, April: With her historic gold medal, the Anchorage ski racer returned to Alaska’s open arms. But her moment barely lasted.
First of six part series of words and photos by Marc Lester with the Anchorage Daily News:
Kikkan Randall stood on the concrete platform of Anchorage’s Town Square and looked out at the faces of her hometown. On a Wednesday afternoon in early April, this mountaintop view capped her 20-year journey as an athlete.
She saw her family sprinkled in the crowd. Her son sat on her husband’s shoulders. Her dad held up an oversized picture of her. At her feet, children looked up, just as she had gazed on her own Olympic heroes as a girl.
She was already one of the most recognized and respected athletes in Alaska history. As a gold medalist and a mother, she was starting a new life.
That life would last 39 days from that April afternoon. And then a new journey would begin for Randall. A cancer journey that would remake how she was seen and how she saw herself.
Anchorage had followed every step of Randall’s skiing career. In the months that followed, she also shared the intimate moments of her difficult cancer year with the Anchorage Daily News.
The story begins in Town Square, with Randall’s skiing teammates at her side, Olympians in their own right. She had insisted they also be recognized.
But the crowd had come to see her. She had won a historic gold medal at the Winter Olympics six weeks earlier, the first in her sport for an American. It felt like it was their medal too.
“Kikkan, to come back wearing that hefty gold around your neck, you wear it with pride,” said U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, on the steps with Randall. “But know that as Alaskans, we wear it with you.”
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