The 2018 U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Team aiming for history at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 more than doubled in size on Sunday.
Four-time Olympian and three-time world medalist Kikkan Randall heads a list of four skiers who qualified following the world cup in Val di Fiemme, Italy, which is the final event that counts toward the distance standings for Olympic selection.
Randall will become the first, or one of the first, U.S. women to compete at five Winter Olympics.
The 35-year-old Randall, newcomer Rosie Brennan, two-time Olympian Liz Stephen and 2014 Olympian Erik Bjornsen qualified based on finishing in the top 50 of the distance world cup standings.
They join Sadie Bjornsen, Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins, who punched their tickets to PyeongChang earlier in this week but were also in the top 50 of the distance standings.
The U.S. has never won a women's cross-country skiing at the Olympics, and its only medal was Bill Koch's silver in 1976.
Randall, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, has competed in the last four Olympic Winter Games and is in search of her first Olympic medal after career-best finishes of eighth in the team sprint classic style in 2014 and eighth in the individual sprint in 2010.
She became the first U.S. cross-country skier to win world championship gold when she and Diggins won the team sprint freestyle in 2013. Randall also has a silver medal at worlds in sprint freestyle in 2009 and a bronze from the 2017 sprint freestyle. She is also the first U.S. woman to achieve a top-three overall world cup ranking and has an astounding 33 world cup podiums to her name, including 14 wins.
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Randall gave birth to her son Breck in April 2016 and is expected to be the only mother competing on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team.
She finished 27th in the world cup distance standings.
Brennan, 29, from Park City, Utah, will make her Olympic debut after placing 34th in the distance standings. She has competed at the world championships in 2015 and 2017 and placed third at a world cup relay in December 2015. Her best individual world cup result to date was 13th in a 10-kilometer freestyle in January 2015.
One spot behind in the standings is Stephen who, from East Montpelier, Vermont, turns 31 on Tuesday. She competed at the past two Olympic Winter Games and at five world championships. Stephen placed fourth in the 4x5-kilometer relay at the world championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She also finished seventh in the 2015 distance world cup standings and 10th overall. She has four top-50 world cup finishes this season.
Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen and Caldwell were fifth, 11th and 48th in the distance standings, respectively.
Erik Bjornsen, 26, from Winthrop, Washington, joined his sister, Sadie, as an Olympic qualifier after posting a 41st-place finish in the men’s world cup distance standings. The 2014 Olympian is the long U.S. men’s cross-country skier to qualify for the team so far, but is expected to be joined by others based on world cup sprint standings next week.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.