Joan Benoit Samuelson

Kikkan Randall
NBC Olympics

Olympic champion Kikkan Randall, cancer survivor, beats NYC Marathon goal

Leave a comment

NEW YORK – Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” blared through the loudspeakers in Central Park as Kikkan Randall crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon.

The Olympic cross-country skiing champion clocked 2:55:12, easily beating her three-hour goal, just one year after her final round of chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer.

“I bet I ran as fast today as I would have last year if I hadn’t had cancer,” Randall said.

Randall immediately received a hug from 1984 Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson, who had texted her advice during training.

“[Cancer] is part of my story, but it’s not the defining thing,” Randall said. “I love being an athlete and facing challenging goals.”

The last 20 months have been a roller coaster for Randall, who will turn 37 on New Year’s Eve.

She won the U.S.’ first cross-country skiing gold medal with Jessie Diggins in the team sprint at her fifth and final Olympics in PyeongChang. She planned on celebrating her retirement from ski racing by running the November 2018 New York City Marathon.

But after a Mother’s Day hike with her husband Jeff Ellis and their 2-year-old son Breck, less than three months after February 2018 Winter Games, she discovered a lump in her right breast. It was later diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer.

She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy in the summer and fall of 2018. She is “pretty confident” that she has been cancer-free since Nov. 2018.

She remained physically active and even considered keeping her 2018 marathon entry, but instead traveled to New York to support Olympic teammate Liz Stephen.

Last Halloween, bald from chemotherapy, Randall dressed as Mr. Clean.

This Halloween, with trademark pink streaks back in her hair, she went as a unicorn.

Randall ran with Stephen during most of the 2019 race. But with half a mile to go, Randall had enough energy to push the pace and Stephen, who finished 25 seconds later, encouraged her to sprint ahead.

“My engine is still so strong from skiing,” Randall said. “It’s my legs that are like, ‘whoo!’”

Randall will decide in the spring whether she wants to run the 2020 race. In the meantime, she would like to complete an off-road triathlon.

“I love having a goal,” she said.

Crossing the finish line was a feeling Randall did not experience during her PyeongChang triumph, since Diggins completed the final leg of the six-lap race (inspiring the memorable “Here comes Diggins! Here comes Diggins!” call).

“Crossing the finish line in any race, especially when you hit the goal that you want, is such a great feeling,” Randall said. “It makes it worth it.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 2019 New York City Marathon Results 

Joan Benoit Samuelson finishes Chicago Marathon, 34 years after Olympic gold

Joan Benoit Samuelson
NBC Chicago
Leave a comment

An emotional 1984 Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson covered Sunday’s Chicago Marathon in 3:12:13, missing her goal of breaking the age 60-and-over world record but finishing with her daughter.

“Last year I could barely run the 5k,” Samuelson, who withdrew before the 2017 Chicago Marathon with a knee injury but ran an accompanying 5K in 21:47, said in an NBC Chicago interview. “I was determined to come back this year and go the distance. You know, I just got the monkey off my back.”

Samuelson, 61, is the most accomplished U.S. female marathoner in history. She won the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984, plus two Boston Marathons (one in a then-world-record time) and the 1985 Chicago Marathon (in a then-American record 2:21:21).

She completed her first marathon in her 60s on Sunday, when she was targeting the age 60-plus record of 3:01:30. Though she missed that, Samuelson still won her age group by more than 20 minutes.

“To have my daughter screaming at me as I was passing her in the chute, and to finish with her, that was just really special,” she said of Abby, who ran 3:11:20. “We’ll be back because we both want to go under three [hours] together. It was a tough day out there, but you know I finished and I felt good, that was a step in the right direction.”

Samuelson broke the age 55-59 record at the 2013 Boston Marathon, clocking 2:50:33 the day twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: 2018 Chicago Marathon results

Boston’s ties to the Olympics

Larry Bird
1 Comment

In Boston, the U.S. Olympic Committee chose a a site for its 2024 Olympic bid that has never been an official Olympic bid city before.

But that’s not to say Boston and its surrounding area don’t have ties to the Olympic Games.

Several of Boston’s most famous athletes are Olympians. And several of the most famous U.S. Olympians lived in Boston, starting with the first modern Olympic gold medalist, Athens 1896 triple jumper James Connolly, who was born in Boston and attended Harvard.

For more recent Olympians, let’s start with the major professional team sports stars.

Boston Celtics Olympians include Larry Bird (gold, 1992), Kevin Garnett (gold, 2000) and Bill Russell (gold, 1956).

Boston Bruins Olympians include Ray Bourque (fourth place with Canada, 1998), Zdeno Chara (Slovakia, 2006, 2010, 2014) and Tim Thomas (silver, 2010). Bobby Orr is not an Olympian but did carry the Olympic flag at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony.

Boston Red Sox Olympians include Nomar Garciaparra (fourth place, 1992), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan, 2000, 2004, bronze medalist) and Jason Varitek (1992).

Other notable Boston-area natives to star in the Olympics include Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig, captain and goalie of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won gold. Eruzione and Craig were from Massachusetts and played at Boston University.

Olympic medalists swimmer Jenny Thompson, judoka Kayla Harrison, figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie and gymnasts Aly Raisman and Alicia Sacramone are from the Boston area.

Don’t forget the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race. Last year, three-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi became the first U.S. man to win the race since 1983. Keflezighi won 2004 Olympic marathon silver. Joan Benoit won two Boston Marathons before she captured the first Olympic women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984.

In 2010, Vermont moguls skier Hannah Kearney wore a Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox shirt under her Opening Ceremony uniform during the Parade of Nations. Kearney won gold the next day.

One of the world’s most prestigious rowing events, the Head of the Charles Regatta, takes place on Boston’s Charles River. Retired British Olympic legends Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent rowed there in 2014, their first time in competition together since Sydney 2000.

Many U.S. Olympic women’s hockey players have Boston ties. Four-time medalists Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu played at Harvard.

Olympic historian Bill Mallon pointed out that Harvard’s stadium hosted some preliminary 1984 Olympic soccer matches as part of the Los Angeles Games.

Many more U.S. Olympic greats have ties to New England, such as Connecticut’s Alex Deibold (Sochi snowboard cross bronze medalist), Maine’s Seth Wescott (two-time snowboard cross gold medalist) and Vermont’s Kelly Clark (three-time snowboard halfpipe medalist), Bode Miller (six-time Alpine skiing medalist), Ross Powers (two-time snowboard halfpipe medalist), Mikaela Shiffrin (Sochi slalom champion of Burke Mountain Academy) and Hannah Teter (two-time snowboard halfpipe medalist).

Watch Amy Van Dyken-Rouen’s ‘Dateline’ feature