I want to bring the crystal globe to the US
After winning the historic gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games in the sprint team with Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins did not spend as quiet spring season as in previous years. Paolo Romano from Italian Skiing server fondoitalia.it did the interview.
In the traditional "April off"- season, a series of meetings with the US media began. First of all, Diggins was welcomed with a triumphal parade in her home town and also received the honour of having a street named after her. She got to visit the playoffs of her favourite hockey team, the Minnesota Wild and launched the first pitch in a baseball game. Jessie Diggins held a speech before the US Congress in Washington to promote her engagement in of the organization "Protect Our Winters", which is concerned to protect our planet from the threats of climate change. In May, Jessie put her skis back on to get ready for the new season.
Born twenty-seven years ago in Afton, a small town of three thousand inhabitants and about forty kilometers east of the Twin Cites of the American "Gopher State" (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Jessie put her head around cross-country skiing thanks to her parents Deb and Clay. Once she received her first set of skis, it was love at first sight.
Today she is well known by all the fans of cross-country skiing for her positivity and her glowing eyes when it comes to remembering her successes, such as the gold medal in the sprint team at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme 2013, the historic gold medal for the United States at the past Olympics in PyeongChang and many more.
Since the US team is back home from training in New Zealand, Jessie answers all the questions with a big smile as well as some glitter on her cheeks, that she always puts on during the most important races of the season. The glitter has a very special meaning for you, that only a few people know of, is that right?
Yes, the glitter for me is a link with the past, a possibility to stay that girl that always had so much fun when cross-country skiing and already in High-school aimed high. Quite often big events, like the the Olympic games or the world championships can get quite stressful and tense but also very exciting. That's why I put on glitter. I want to remember why I love this sport, why I love what I'm doing until I die.
What did you feel when you were listening to the American anthem at Pyeongchang after winning the Olympic gold?
I just thought it was special for me to be there on the Olympic podium, it was very emotional because my parents and my fiencé were also there. I thought that the success was important for the whole US cross-country skiing movement, including coaches. Behind our success there are many team members who have worked hard and helped us a lot.
After becoming an Olympic champion, what can motivate you still to train hard?
There are still many things I would like to win, and I want to improve a lot, for example one of my goals is to reach a world championship medal with the 4x5 km relay, or try to win the Tour de Ski for years to come. The goal is to win a world or Olympic gold medal in an individual distance race. There are five Olympic program formats that I have not won yet! This is why my motivation is always very high.
Last year you came second in the overall standings, just 40 points behind Heidi Weng. However, you defected the Lahti stage in early March. If you would have taken place, the Crystal globe could have been yours. Do you have any regrets about that absence?
No, I have no regrets, the forty points I may have lost in the Tour de Ski or other World Cup stages before the Olympics, which is a matter of hindsight, and after the Olympic Games I wanted to go back to the US because in Lahti it is always very cold and the conditions are difficult. If I had gone maybe I would have fallen ill, or I would have come to Drammen and Holmenkollen more tired. Therefore I maybe could not have collected the same amount of points that I did back in Norway. I regret the Overall but it makes no sense to look back now.
But honestly, Crystal globe is a goal for next season?
I will certainly try again, it would be a very special success for an American, but I still have many years ahead of me to succeed in this.
Is it true that the main objective of his 2018 summer preparation is to improve in classical technique?
My classic technique is getting better and better year after year - especially in races over 10 km, I'm working on it and I know that I still can improve myself.
In general you are not an example of a very stylish skier when it comes to your technique.
True, I do not have a great technique, but I'm damn good at bringing out the maximum speed in the flat stretches and imposing my progression when the ground becomes bad, I would not be who I am if I tried to change the parts of me that make me so fast.
What do you expect from the re-entry of Therese Johaug after the suspension?
It's hard to say what her level will be after two years without competitions. She will certainly be very motivated and personally I think we'll find Therese at the top right away.
How would you describe the popularity of cross-country skiing in the United States? Are you and your teammates of the US team more considered by the great American media, sponsors and fans than in the past?
Surely our Olympic success has helped a lot to increase the popularity of cross-country skiing in the US. Now many more Americans know our names. In the States, the Olympics are the greatest sporting event and they are considered infinitely more important than the World Cup, while in Europe the difference in concept is not so marked. The Olympics have had a very high media coverage and everyone was able to watch the cross-country races and our successes. This does not happen during the World Cup races, especially not because of the time zone that forces real fans to watch the races live at three or five in the morning. But in general, our media exposure has increased and more people have approached cross-country skiing.
Moreover, in 2020 the Cross-Country World Cup will return to the United States after almost two decades. You will compete in Minneapolis and you have pushed hard for this project. Can you tell us more about this stage that will take place near your home town Afton?
As far as I'm concerned, I was very motivated to have a stop in the United States to give young American fans the chance to see the great international cross-country champions up close. I know that there is already a good interest in this stage, for the young American generations it will be a great opportunity to live these events up close after many years, just as it will be nice for me to have direct contact with my audience.
Why should a boy or girl choose to go cross-country skiing when he starts a sport?
Because it's a 'cool' sport, it's not a contact sport that often causes injuries, it's always in contact with nature and can be played by the young up to old age without any problem. It is exciting at any moment and you can always choose the best route according to your level or your ambitions.
What is your secret in being always so smiling before, during and after the competitions? Do you have any negative moments during the day?
Of course, I have bad moments in my day, but in every situation I always have to find the positive side. I too get angry at myself if I make mistakes, also if there are races or results below my expectations. Then we need to know how to get going and for me, the positive approach helps, I am always smiling because I consider myself very lucky. I love what I am doing, I can meet many friends, and to travel through the world for cross-country competitions makes me feel internally.
As a teenager you had eating disorders which you have overcome. Do you have any advice for young skiers who are passing this situation?
Having eating disorder is a much more common situation in sports than you think habitually. The most important thing is that there should be no shame in admitting this problem, it could happen to anyone. It is not our mistake, but a condition. It is important that you ask for help if you have an eating disorder. It makes no sense to stay in your pain, you need to talk about it with your family or a doctor, or a trusted friend or with a person who has successfully overcome this problem. This way it will be easier to get out of it.
Your are actively involved in the organization of Protect Our Winter. What can each of us do to prevent climate change and preserve the glaciers and the ancient true winter seasons?
It is important that we all educate ourselves correctly on this issue of our time, it is essential for our planet that winters remain the same. It is certainly undeniable that the winters are always shorter and the glaciers are disappearing. We are having a great awareness of the issues when we travel to glaciers and the various winter stations during our training sessions and the competitions. I want my nephews in the near future to still be able to do cross-country skiing in the same conditions that we have now. Each of us can do something in its small way and put pressure on those who represent us directly in the various parliaments or congresses on this issue, this can be a good start.