Minnesota hometown of medalist Diggins plans royal welcome

Cross-Country Skiing - Winter Olympics Day 12
Jessica Diggins of the United States reacts as she wins gold during the Cross Country Ladies' Team Sprint Free Final at Alpensia Cross-Country Centre on February 21, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Lars Baron | Getty Images

The Minnesota hometown of Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins is planning a royal welcome for whenever she comes home.

Diggins, who grew up in Afton and is a graduate of Stillwater Area High School, won the United States' first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal on Wednesday with teammate Kikkan Randall in the team sprint freestyle race. Diggins was then selected as the U.S. flagbearer for Sunday night's closing ceremony at the Pyeongchang games.

Business owners and residents of Afton, a city of 3,000 on the east edge of the Twin Cities metro area, are already planning to honor their hometown hero, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

City Council member Bill Palmquist said the city will declare a "Jessie Diggins Day" once a date can be arranged.

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Rebecca Nickerson, owner of Selma's Ice Cream Parlor, said she plans to release a special ice cream flavor or two in conjunction with the celebration. They might be called "Diggin' for Gold" or "Diggin' in for Jessie Diggins."

Dozens of yard signs that read "Afton Cheers for Jessie Diggins — Go for the Nordic Gold" have sprung up around town since the start of the Olympics.

"Everyone is just super-proud and couldn't be more excited and happy for her," Palmquist said. "Looks like we are going to have to add something to our 'Welcome to Afton' signs. 'Home of Olympic gold medal-winning Jessie Diggins' sounds good to me."

Selma's reopens March 23 after a winter break. But don't expect the new flavor — maybe with a red, white and blue base, maybe with a gold one — until Diggins can make it back home, Nickerson said.

"I guess ideally we'd like to have her have the first taste of the flavor first before we dole it out to everyone," she said.

Diggins finished in the top six in each of her four Olympic events before Wednesday's sprint relay. Her next and final event is the 30K mass-start classic on Sunday.

"When Jessie swung into that final straightaway, I think everyone in my family was like, 'Oh, my God! She's going to win,'" said Kris Hanson, Diggins' coach at Stillwater Area High School. "There was no way she was going to let herself come up short. She took off and did that beautiful lunge, and we just went completely nuts. All of us had tears in our eyes."