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World champion speaks at Red Wing Nordic Club's end-of-season banquet

Jessie Diggins (back row, fourth from the left) spoke at the Red Wing Nordic Club's end of year banquet Sunday. Members of the club are pictured: (front row from left) Emily Dech, Calvin Harper, Dayvd Tenms, Emily Nagel; (back) Joey Haley, Hannah Rosenow, Meyer Beckner, Jessie Diggins, Phil Mitchell, Coach David Asp, Henry Patterson.

World champion skier and Olympic hopeful Jessie Diggins spoke at the Red Wing Nordic Club's end of season banquet Sunday at the Mayo Health Professional Building in Red Wing.

Diggins, a member of the U.S. Nordic Skiing Team, along with racing partner Kikkan Randall secured the United States' first-ever gold medal in a team event at the World Cup Dec. 7 in Quebec, Canada.

Red Wing Nordic Club coach David Asp contacted Diggins to come speak and Diggins happily accepted. She gave a presentation, signed posters and talked about life as a professional skier.

"It's always fun to share my story with these guys and hopefully inspire them," Diggins said. "It's definitely possible for a kid from Minnesota to train really hard and, if you believe you can do it, you can make it to the top.

"One of the key things I try to stress is that it's super important to have fun. If you get too intense, thinking, 'I have to win these races,' it's not very fun. Nordic is a sport you can do your whole life. Have fun with it and don't put too much pressure on yourself."

Diggins said she talked about the highs and lows of competition and life while also focusing on getting young girls involved in sports.

"There's this kind of attitude that maybe it's not cool to stay in sports and it's not cool to do a winter sport outdoors where you're not crashing into each other," Diggins said. "This is actually quite an intense sport. It takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of strength and stamina. One message that all the girls on the U.S. team talk about is: Strong is great, strong is beautiful and it's healthy. It's better than putting on makeup and putting on your shorts and going for a run."

Asp, a psychologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, said Diggins was inspirational for the kids in attendance.

"She had some great words of wisdom from any standpoint in life, racing or otherwise," Asp said. "Things are not always going to go well, no matter how hard you train. There are certain things that can happen that's out of your control. The important thing is to have fun and enjoy the journey. That's a great message."

The Red Wing Nordic Club started two years ago when Phil Mitchell asked Asp if he would be willing to coach a club team. The club had four skiers last season and this year it more than doubled its members to nine with seven high schoolers and two seventh graders. Approximately 45 people attended the banquet, Asp said.

"We focus on skate skiing as opposed to classical at least at this point," Asp said. "The basic thing is learning good skate skiing technique, having fun and good camaraderie."

Diggins, whose parents own Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing, has competed as a professional Nordic skier since graduating from Stillwater High School in 2010. She was placed on Team USA's A team in the spring, according to her website, and Diggins is preparing to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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