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2 Olympians Talk Perseverance


There was a beautiful moment at the Olympics last night that might have gone unnoticed. Two U.S. athletes won medals for the first time. But that is not the story, as NPR's Russell Lewis reports from Pyeongchang.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Kikkan Randall is a five-time Olympian, first competing in 2002.

KIKKAN RANDALL: And I knew it was going to be a long road. I didn't think it'd be quite this long.

LEWIS: Randall's gold with Jessie Diggins in the team sprint is the first-ever medal for the U.S. in women's cross-country skiing. Randall is 35, and after Sochi in 2014, took a year off to have her first child.

RANDALL: And there were certainly some really frustrating moments, some doubt of whether or not I'd ever be able to make it back.

LEWIS: Of the 242 U.S. athletes in Pyeongchang, 20 are dads, but there's only one mom. To Randall, this all seems like a fairy tale she'll read to her son one day. For bobsledder Lauren Gibbs, she called the experience of winning a silver medal with Elana Meyers Taylor surreal. Gibbs had a successful job in the corporate world. She had just turned 30 and finishing an executive MBA.

LAUREN GIBBS: I wasn't miserable. It just - it didn't - it wasn't enough. You know, it's, like, I would end the night and be like, all right, I guess I'll do that again tomorrow.

LEWIS: So she gave it all up to become a bobsledder. Who does this at 30? she asked. For the next three years, she dedicated herself to this new sport. Even her dad doubted her. Now she wants to become a public speaker.

GIBBS: There's so much opportunity out there in the world to do your own thing and carve your own path. And so I want to tell that story. When people graduate from college, they can make the decisions about what they are passionate about instead of what they feel like they're supposed to do.

LEWIS: Lauren Gibbs, Kikkan Randall, two first-time Olympic medalists inspiring others to reach higher. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Pyeongchang.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
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