No American had done it in 42 years. Leave it to the only mom on Team USA to pull it off.

Americans don't medal in cross-country skiing at the Olympic Winter Games. It just doesn't happen — until now.

Neither Kikkan Randall nor her teammate Jessie Diggins had been born yet the last time an American took home an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing. For decades, America's attention and medals have gone to their Alpine counterparts.

But on Feb. 21, in a near-photo finish, Randall, 35, and Diggins, 26, broke an American dry spell more than 15,330 days long to win a gold medal in the women's cross-country team sprint. It's the first medal for the women's cross-country team, and it comes 42 years after the last U.S. cross-country skiing medal by any gender, a silver earned by Bill Koch in 1976.


Randall and Diggins won the race in heart-stopping fashion, securing the top spot by just 0.19 seconds.

"The goal was ski smart, stay out of trouble, and just stay strong at the end, and yeah, it really paid off," Randall said in an interview with NBC after her race.

This huge win is a longtime coming for Randall who started her Olympic career 16 years ago at the Salt Lake City Games.

In appearances across five Winter Games, Randall had 18 attempts in multiple events but had never finished higher than sixth place, including a heartbreaking defeat in Sochi in a quarterfinal round.

"That's the beauty of the Olympics and also the agony — it's one day. And if it doesn't quite go right, that's your chance," Randall said in an interview with NPR.

Kikkan Randall during the Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

After earning the trip to Pyeongchang for her fifth Olympics, Randall like many athletes, stared down the possibility of ending her impressive athletic career without making it to the podium.

But with perseverance, grit, and the support of amazing teammates, she pulled off what previously seemed impossible.  

Jessica Diggins  (L) and Kikkan Randall celebrate as they win gold during the Cross Country Ladies' Team Sprint Free Final. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.

Especially notable about her is that, in addition to her history-making gold-medal performance, of the 244 athletes on Team USA, Randall is the only mother.

There are 20 fathers on the team, but Randall is the only mom in the group. (Team USA doesn't disclose whether athletes chose adoption or had children pass away, so we recognize that this is a pretty limiting definition of parenthood.) While there's no official reason given for the mom disparity, it could have a lot to do with pregnancy and childbirth affecting a person's body and the fact many child-rearing duties are still relegated to women.

Balancing the physical, emotional, and mental demands of being a pro-athlete and primary caregiver is a challenge and commitment few among us could even fathom. But it's one Randall not only accepted — but surmounted.

While her toddler son, Breck, stayed with his grandparents in Canada instead of making the trip to South Korea, he was never far from Randall's mind.

"I won’t get to see him for a full month, which is going to be really hard because I’ve just gotten so adapted to life chasing around a toddler," Randall told The Huffington Post before the competition. "But he is doing great with his grandparents. ... I know he’s in a good place, so now I can focus on what I need to do."

And focus she did. All the way to Team USA's first gold medal in a sport she's devoted the last 20 years of her life to.

"Did we just win the Olympics?" Diggins asked.

"Yeah, we did!" Randall said.

Kikkan Randall  (red bib) and Jessica Diggins celebrate on the podium. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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