Diggins pushes for OlympicsJessie Diggins had a breakthrough in Moscow for the U.S. Nordic Skiing team.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Jessie Diggins had a breakthrough in Moscow for the U.S. Nordic Skiing team.
Competing Feb. 2 in the World Cup Skate Sprint, a 1.5-kilometer race that involved three rounds, Diggins qualified as the top skier in the world. She completed the course in 3 minutes, 37 seconds and moved to the semifinals where she secured a spot in the top six for finals. She finished sixth, one spot ahead of the top American skier, Kikkan Randall.
But Diggins, who works part time at Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing, didn’t stop there. She backed up her performance in Moscow with a career-best fifth-place finish in Rybinsk, Russia during the 10-K skate race, which is done with slightly shorter skis, longer poles and an ice-skating technique. She didn’t quite make the podium but she is well on her way as the No. 2 skier for the U.S. National Ski Team.
“To be a top athlete means you are one of the fastest in the world, you can podium in World Cups,” Diggins, 20, said. “I’m still not at that level, but someday I’d like to be. It’s definitely very surreal to be skiing next to and competing with such talented endurance athletes but it’s also really cool to meet them and realize that they’re just the same as everyone else.
“They work hard, prepare, train and race well. There’s no magic, just years of dedication and hard work, which is very encouraging.”
Last year, Diggins finished as the third-ranked U.S. skier and the 71st-ranked distance skier, but with multiple top 10 finishes in 2011-12 she rocketed to the 34th overall spot and 26th-ranked distance skier in the world.
She is currently ranked second in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association after three top-20 finishes at the World Cup Finals tour in Falun, Sweden March 16-18.
“I ended the season on a really high note,” she said. “At that point, you just have to race with what you’ve got … everyone was so positive. Everybody was not just content to have made it but we really wanted to do well too.”
When Jessie was in seventh grade, she asked her mother if she could be an Olympic athlete. Her mother, Deb Diggins, along with the rest of the family, chuckled and told her daughter anything was possible with hard work.
“We laughed,” Deb Diggins said. “There’s always a chance if you really want, if you’re willing to put in the hard work it requires.”
Now, after putting in years of training, Jessie is on the fast track to being an Olympic athlete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It’s not really something we were ever aiming for,” Deb Diggins said. “She’s currently in an extremely strong position. It’s really fun. Unless something changes and you never know what’s going to happen next year, we’re thinking we’re very likely heading to Russia.”
Deb Diggins said she was unable to make any of Jessie’s races this season because every World Cup event took place overseas but she did watch all the races on an Internet live stream and she said it’s amazing to watch her daughter succeed while following her dreams.
With each top finish, Jessie gets closer to her goal of being an Olympic athlete.
“It’s definitely a big goal, not just to go to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but for our women’s team to be super strong there and try to bring home some medals in the team events,” she said. “I’d definitely like to be competing in the top-10 in the 2018 Olympics but that’s so far away right now. I like to focus on smaller steps, one day at a time.”
Jessie said she set out to improve on last season’s performance but made bigger strides than expected. She said she also became more comfortable with her teammates and being a World Cup athlete. Her attitude shifted and her confidence spiked.
“It was really connecting with all my teammates and finding that I really love being on the World Cup,” she said. “Feeling like I belong on that race scene. That was the biggest thing for me.”
Diggins’ next step is to race in the USSA SuperTour Finals today-March 31. After that, she will return to Afton for some relaxation and recovery from a long season.
“The World Cup has been so much fun,” Jessie said. “I couldn’t have planned a better season.”