Kikkan Randall's time at the top of the World Cup sprint rankings will be short-lived -- and she is fine with that.
The three-time U.S. Olympic cross-country skier has her sights set on the world championships in Oslo, Norway, beginning next month and will miss two World Cup events in order to train for those races instead. She also plans to get some much-needed rest with Oslo "being the major goal for the season."
Next season, she insists, can be spent chasing the overall World Cup lead.
"I didn't really expect to be in this position at this point in the season," Randall said on a conference call Tuesday. "While it's an incredible honor ... next year will be a full World Cup season and that's when I can chase the overall lead."
The 28-year-old Randall is coming off a victory in the World Cup sprint race Saturday at Liberec, Czech Republic, that put her in the sprint lead. It was her second career World Cup win and third podium finish of the season.
"I've always had those long-term goals out there to be the best in the world," Randall said. "I keep charging forward to the next biggest thing."
Randall, of Anchorage, Alaska, finished eighth in the sprint at last year's Vancouver Olympics. She also teamed with Caitlin Compton, of Minneapolis, for a sixth-place showing in the women's team sprint.
Randall didn't even compete in her best event in Canada, the skate sprint. Qualifying in that race for the Sochi Games in 2014 is in her plans.
"The 2010 Olympics were a unique situation for me because I didn't get to compete in my best event and had to re-evaluate my goals a little bit. I knew I'd have another opportunity in four years in Sochi to go after the skate sprint," Randall said. "Eighth in the classical sprint was a real breakthrough for me because I had never been top-10 in that event."
She cherishes her win at Liberec, where she earned silver in the 2009 world championship freestyle sprint race. Randall said she continues to gain confidence with experience. She is in her fifth year competing full-time on the World Cup circuit.
These days, she enters each race focused on her game plan while blocking out the rest of the field. It has been over the course of the last decade she has gained this maturity -- a far cry from the day she qualified for the 2002 Olympic team at age 19.
"Now when I start a World Cup sprint race, I know I can win," she said. "All that has prepared me for having the right frame of mind, skiing my race and knowing I can do it."
Randall hopes there are only more victories to celebrate in the coming years while she is still skiing at her highest level.
"I still consider myself pretty young in the sport and I feel the next three or four years could be the best yet," she said. "I want to take advantage of this great opportunity I have to put the U.S. on the map."