The Valley Subway’s usual afternoon crowd went up tenfold on Friday. But these crowds weren’t there for the sandwiches. They wanted to meet Olympic skiing legend Kikkan Randall of Anchorage.
Randall is a world famous Nordic skiing champion with three World Cup wins and a world championship silver medal in sprinting, The 28-year-old Olympian said she’s proud to also have 16 national titles and to have broken barriers by becoming the first American woman to medal in the World Cup cross country event.
She also just won her first Mount Marathon race in Seward in July. She clocked in at just over 52 minutes, ranking among the dozen highest women’s times for the race.
Randall stopped by Subway to sign autographs as part of an annual Alaska tour with friend and fellow skier Kate Arduser of Cordova. The two also used to train together.
They’ve been making regular summer trips to see more of their home state with their mothers. This time, they selected Juneau as their destination.
Randall said that although she’s been here before, this is the first chance she’s really had to explore more of the city. As an athlete, she naturally checked out the areas potential for trails, kayaking and roller skiing.
“It’s great to come down here to Juneau with a fresh slate,” she said.
Of course, the skier in her had to check out Eaglecrest, where she had skied as a teenager considering going into alpine skiing.
“I was really impressed with the amount of snow there now and the terrain,” she said.
Arduser, 31, is also no stranger to competitive skiing, having done so for 15 years while becoming a National Collegiate Athletic Association All American and representing the U.S. in World Cups. She is now retired and works as a consultant, but still skis for fun.
Arduser was also impressed with Eaglecrest, saying, “From a Nordic perspective, I felt it would be a fabulous training ground for cross country skiers.”
“I was just driving up that road earlier today, wishing I had my skis with me,” she said.
Subway of Alaska has been one of Randall’s biggest sponsors since 2006.
Juneau Subway owner Wade Bryson said it was a privilege to be able to let Juneau’s families meet such an esteemed athlete that way.
“I think it’s a huge for our community to be able to met a world stage competitor, and I feel fortunate as a Subway owner that I have those connections to make that happen,” he said. “If I wasn’t a Subway restaurateur, that wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity.”
Bryson said hundreds turned out in the same afternoon time frame that would typically bring in a few dozen. He said it was reminiscent of when the restaurant hosted National Basketball Association star Carlos Boozer.
Of course, a large part of an athlete’s world is inspiration. And meeting the folks at Subway was a chance to give the community, particularly the kids, some inspiration to follow their own dreams.
“Dream big. Don’t put any limitations on what you want to do someday. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it,” Randall said. “You can set an ambitious goal even when someone has never done something yet. Because I was told and I believe in that, I’ve been able to do some incredible things.”
“What’s cool is these kids are doing the exact same thing,” she said. “When I was a kid, I was out on ski slopes and stayed active and I see these kids doing the same thing.”
While Randall’s Juneau trip was a chance to relax, it’s by no means an extended break. She trains twice a day, almost every day. Her goal is be a medal contender in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Everything I’ve done so far has been leading up to this,” she said.
“Most people only hear of cross country skiing every 4 years but it’s something we work on every day to reach that final goal,” she said.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or email@example.com.