Athlete in Interview: Jessica Diggins USA
Jessica Diggins could be characterized as the surprise of the year. The young talented US athlete is having a break through season with a second place in the free technique team sprint in Milano, a 5th place in the 10 km mass start free and a 12th place in skiathlon in Rybins, Only a few days earlier, she laid down a sensational qualification time in the World Cup sprint in Moscow, being the fastest. Last weekend in Nove Mesto, Diggins’ strong performance continued and the skier from Minnesota was the quickest on the last leg of the 4x5 km relay. The FIS Cross-Country News talked to Jessie Diggins about the season and plans for the future.
Q: You come from Minnesota. It is not a traditional area for Cross-Country Skiing, is it?
Jessica Diggins: A lot of skiers in the US come from the East Coast and Alaska but there are a lot of recreational skiers in the Midwest. Over the years there have been a few people in the US Ski Team coming from Minnesota.
Q: Do you come from a skiing family?
J.D.: Yes, I do. My parents did Cross-Country skiing. We used to go out skiing almost every weekend as a family when I was a kid. It was a fun to do, a fun way to be outside with family and friends. In the junior high and high school I skied on the school team and then club team. I got more serious about skiing when we started to make trips to Scandinavian Cups and Junior Worlds. I was training more and more over the summer and also the fall. I kept doing the sport more and more and last spring and I got on the US Ski Team.
Q: Has it always been a dream for you to be on the US Ski Team?
J.D.: Well, when I was younger I always thought it would be cool to be on the US Ski Team, to go to the Olympics one day, go to the World Champs. It's been great to be part of the team, to be able to train with Kikkan Randall. I had posters of her all over my wax room and I still do. It's great to be training and racing with these people.
Q: What's the secret behind strong North American athletes’ performance this season?
J.D.: I don't know! It's so fun to be over here. For me, I race better when I'm happy and have fun. If I'm having a good time I start racing better. In the team we feed off from each other’s excitement. When Devon won the race, everyone was so happy for him, when Kikkan wins a World Cup everyone gets super pumped up about it. When one person of the team does well the whole team shares the joy with them. And on the other hand, when you have a bad day you can brush it off more easily because someone from the team had probably a good one.
Q: Where does your winning streak come from? You won Nor/Am Cup races and you are strong also at World Cups?
J.D.: I had really good start of the season over back home in North America. That was really cool as I've got work into the main season. And then, there was less stress here, as nobody knew me and did not know what to expect from me. I felt like nobody was watching me. I was only kind of unknown North American girl who has shown up. I think I race better when I don't have a lot of pressure or expectations on me.
Q: But now you can have some expectations on you?
J.D.: Yes, now there'll be maybe more pressure. We will see.
Q: What is your favorite distance actually? You won sprint qualification in Moscow; you were 5th in the 10 km mass start free and 12th in the skiathlon.
J.D.: I don't know that I have a favorite yet. I like them all. I really like skating because I don't have deal with kick wax but I do not know that I have a favorite distance yet.
Q: What has been the best experience this year?
J.D.: I think the team sprint in Milan getting with Kikkan as team partner. That was cool. I had never done the team sprint before. It was a learning experience for me even though I fell couple of times that day. Getting on the podium with Kikkan and Chandra and Perianne as the second North American team, that was kind of a WOW moment.
Q: You are young, what are your long-term goals; Olympics, World Championships?
J.D.: I want to have fun with skiing and I want to take it as far as I can. Go to the Olympics and keep going to the World Champs. As long as I'm having fun I want to keep doing Cross-Country skiing.
Q: Do you do some other sports as well?
J:D.: Yes I do, but when I became more serious about skiing I cut off all other activities. But I still like trail running in a park, playing soccer with my friends. But skiing is the only sport I compete in.
Q: How do you relax when you are not training or competition?
J.D.: I read a lot. I have this kind of E-reader thing. With all the girls on the team we watch TV shows. We play games as the team.
Q: You also play violin?
J.D.: I played at the high school. I have not played in a little while but I did it in high school. I was in orchestra. We played at least an hour a day. We played classical music. That was fun and a nice experience.
Q: How is the atmosphere in the team? How does it work when you are so long away from home?
J.D.: Sometimes it's easy to get home sick when you have not been home a long time. Some of our guys have spent the whole winter away from home. So it is really important we have good team chemistry. We really have that. It's really cool to see we do not just happen to be on the same team but we really like each other, we support each other. If someone has a tough time everybody tries to help. That makes a lot easier to be over here.
Q: What about upcoming U23 Championships? Is it on your plan?
J.D.: Yes, earlier this fall the plan was the U23 will be the highlight of the year and now the World Cups have been going so well it was not so clear. But I would really like to go. It will be such a fun trip. And it is also really good to go and to be with the juniors. Some of the US kids that will come have never been there before and they are super excited. I think I will go unless I get sick or something like that.
Q: What is the best and worst thing about Cross-Country skiing for you?
J.D.: I really hate when I can't get a good kick, just slipping and slipping and slipping. That is very frustrating. What I really like is when in the race you can push so hard; it's amazing to see how far you can push your body. It's cool to think, wow, I'm skiing really fast! I'm doing Cross-Country skiing for this feeling, for being fast, for pushing your body to the limit. That feels good afterwards.