Diggins helps U.S. make historyAs Jessie Diggins watched Kikkan Randall cross the finish line with her arms raised, she was witnessing the U.S. Nordic Skiing Team make history.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
As Jessie Diggins watched Kikkan Randall cross the finish line with her arms raised, she was witnessing the U.S. Nordic Skiing Team make history.
Diggins and Randall had secured the United States’ first-ever gold medal in a team event at the World Cup Friday in Quebec, Canada. The pair finished in a combined 21 minutes, 49.5 seconds.
“It’s always great when you train for so long and you have these goals that you really want to meet and that feeling when you meet those goals is really awesome,” said Diggins, who works part time at Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing when she’s not on the professional skiing circuit. “My second thought was that it was so great because my family, friends and teammates were there. I got to share that with them.
“I would say what meant the very most to me was that my parents and my sister and relatives and friends were there at the city sprint.”
Winning the first gold in team history is a huge milestone and Diggins said it gives the team motivation to continue breaking down barriers in a sport dominated by Scandinavian countries.
“It makes everyone really inspired and want to train harder,” she said. “It trickles down to junior athletes in clubs, ‘I want to train hard so one day I can be on that team in 10 years.’ It kind of inspires everyone and energizes everyone and reminds you why you work so hard.”
Randall is the top-ranked Nordic Skier for the women’s team and her experience was paramount in securing the gold medal.
“Obviously Kikkan is the best choice as anchor leg,” Diggins said. “She has the greatest tactical knowledge. She knows where to make the move, where to pass and how to do it.”
The course was 800 meters each lap through Quebec City and each skier made two laps per leg of the relay equaling 1.6 kilometers.
By the end of each race, Diggins and Randall had each skied six laps. Diggins came from behind on her third and final leg, surviving a near crash, and took the lead before handing off to Randall, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association website.
The pair competed in the semifinals earlier Friday to qualify for the finals.
“By the end of the day you’ve raced 12 laps,” Diggins said. “It’s a sprint race, but you have to have endurance because you’re going for a long time.”
Diggins’ parents own Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing and her mother, Deb, said the atmosphere surrounding the races was incredible.
“It was really exciting to be here,” Deb said Friday evening from Quebec. “The fans in Quebec City were great. They’ve been really cheering for them.”
The individual sprint race didn’t go quite as well as Diggins hoped as she finished 28th overall and 17th in qualifying. She had a crash in her quarterfinal race.
“Obviously disappointed,” she said. “You learn from every experience and move forward.”
Diggins, 21, graduated from Stillwater High School in 2010 and has been competing as a professional Nordic skier since. She was placed on Team USA’s A team in the spring, according to her website.
She is now in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, for the Alberta World Cup races Thursday through Saturday.
From Canmore, Diggins will take part in the Tour de Ski in January and then she will participate in the 2013 Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The races will take place February 20-March 3.
“Everybody is going to be gunning for that,” Diggins said. “I think we have some big team goals. For me, my goal is to make the relay team and to do my best and hope we can medal in that.”
The 2014 Winter Olympics are also approaching and Diggins is confident she will make the trip to Sochi, Russia, barring any unforeseen injuries or illnesses, she said.
“There’s definitely a lot of certainty this year versus last year,” Diggins said. “It feels good for sure. … Results like last weekend were really encouraging for the whole team. It shows we’re on the right track.”