It's been a golden few weeks for Olympic cross-country skier Jessie Diggins. The Afton native helped win the country's first gold medal in women's cross-country skiing in the team sprint with teammate Kikkan Randall.
Now back in the U.S., Diggins said she's hoping to grow the sport's popularity, and bring a World Cup championship to Minnesota if the support is there.
"I would love nothing more than to race the World Cup in Minnesota, and have all these junior athletes and young skiers get to see it right there in front of them," the 26-year-old said.
Diggins was one of 13 Minnesotans to bring home Olympic hardware.
But the biggest challenge to her goal is the funding. That requires a bigger interest in the sport.
Besides her gold in the team sprint, Diggins also had the best finish in the 15k skiathon for an American women athlete, finishing fifth behind Sweden's Charlotte Kalla. After the finish, she said she felt a lot of pressure to compete.
"I knew there was going to be a lot of media pressure, and I didn't anticipate how much pressure there was going to be to medal, since we hadn't before.
"But having my family and my boyfriend there was so grounding, I got a hug from them after every race," Diggins said. "For me it was about going out there and giving everything I had, every single race.
Diggins added she was excited to turn cross-country skiing, often viewed as a solitary exercise, into a team sport.
She said she doesn't remember her thoughts during her final stretch of the team free sprint.
"It's hard to remember because I was so in the zone. For me, I see it as this is my job, and I'm going to go out and do the best I can. I was just so focused on every single push and putting every single effort into my movements," Diggins said.
But she knows she followed her race-day rule: She only thought positive thoughts.
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