In Kikkan Randall’s 20-year career, she took the sport of cross country from relative obscurity to Olympic gold. She’s a pioneer, and not just because she was the first American to medal at the Olympics. Randall is an also a five-time Olympian and the only mother on the U.S. Olympic Team.

Former teammate and fellow Alaskan Holly Brooks says Randall has been the rock of the U.S. women’s cross country team since it started on the World Cup stage. In fact, at 19, Kikkan was the first American woman to compete on the world circuit. Without any teammates, she was forced to travel with the U.S. men’s team.

Four years ago, Holly competed with Kikkan at the Sochi Olympics -- where she cheered for her in pink suspenders. Now retired, Holly watched Kikkan’s historic win in Alaska with her new teammates, her 6-month-old twins, Ruby and Brooks. Holly says Kikkan’s achievement is even more significant because she's a mom too.

“You know, she took a year off to have the baby and built herself back up incrementally and I think she's really shown the world that you don't have to choose family or sports you can succeed in both,” Holly said. 

However, that success wasn't easy. It took two decades to get to this moment and Holly helped build the momentum. In 2012, Holly, Randall and Jessie Diggins were part of the first U.S. team to ever medal on the world stage.

“That was a huge watershed moment, a breakthrough moment and that just gave all of us the belief that it was possible,” Holly said.

Holly says possible became probable when the women realized they were stronger when they worked together.

“So rather than being caddy females and being like I’m gonna do anything, I can to beat you, we teamed up and said we're gonna help each other to beat the world,” she said.

Holly thought her team had a chance at a medal at in Sochi, but says the intense pressure to make history may have got to them. This time around, Kikkan's fifth trip to the Olympics and the first as a mom, the drought ended. Holly knows what would be the ultimate toast to her friend’s Olympic career. She started a social media blitz to send Kikkan back to Alaska after she carries the flag for the U.S. in the closing ceremonies.

“If Kikkan Randall from Anchorage Alaska isn't the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies I will be shocked and ashamed," Holly said. "I’m very confident there’s a lot of momentum for that already 08 happening think it would be a really special moment.”

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