Diggins won't stop moving forward -- at usual high rate of speed, of course

Rachel Blount, Star Tribune on

Published in Olympics

Her sport is all about moving forward as fast as you can. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Jessie Diggins isn't living in the reflected glory of her Olympic gold medal.

The Afton native said she never looks at the medal she won in cross-country skiing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. She stashed it in the basement of her parents' home, where it sits with other mementos. It wasn't on her mind last summer, as Diggins prepared for a new World Cup season and the 2022 Beijing Olympics, or this week, when she put in some final work toward Friday's season opener in Ruka, Finland.

"I try not to ride on the successes of the past,'' Diggins said. "I am proud of them, because it reflects a lot of hard work from a lot of different people. But I have to prove myself this year.''

Diggins is wearing several crowns as she begins the World Cup season with three days of racing in Ruka. She is the defending World Cup overall champion and distance champion, the first American woman to win those titles. Last winter, she also became the first U.S. athlete to win the multistage Tour de Ski, one of the circuit's premier events.

There's also that historic Olympic gold. Diggins will always be known for her dramatic finish in the team sprint at the Pyeongchang Games, when she and Kikkan Randall captured America's first Winter Games gold in cross-country skiing.

Each of those achievements checked a box on her list of lifelong goals. But with a third Olympics in her sights, Diggins doesn't find it productive to dwell on any of it.


"Every single year, I feel like I get a chance to prove to myself that I'm working hard and earning my place,'' said Diggins, 30. "I haven't qualified for the [Beijing] Olympics. None of us have.

"I think it's kind of cool that it doesn't matter where you've come from or what you've done. You have to earn your place on the team. I love that about our sport. Nobody gets a free pass.''

In her 11th season on the U.S. cross-country team, Diggins is expected to lead a young roster at the Beijing Games, which begin Feb. 4. The Olympic team will include about 14 athletes, a slightly smaller group than in the past. The roster will be determined by performances on the World Cup circuit and will be announced in mid-January.

Diggins spent the summer training at her home base in Vermont, as well as at team camps in Germany and Utah. As always, she will enter the season with a carefully calibrated plan.


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