Picture by 2020 Getty Images

From race day sparkles to advocacy: 5 things to know about U.S. cross-country skier Jessie Diggins

The PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist has been a fixture in cross-country skiing for nearly a decade. Find out more about the energetic Minnesota native.
By Nick McCarvel

“I felt unstoppable.”

Those were the words of Team USA cross country skier Jessie Diggins following her remarkable come-from-behind victory at PyeongChang 2018 in the team sprint, making Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall their country’s first gold medallists in the sport’s Olympic history.

At age 29, Diggins remains a force in cross country skiing, most recently winning the Tour de Ski in January, becoming the first non-European to do so.

The Minnesota native is outspoken, energetic and optimistic, and finds herself chasing adrenaline-filled adventures away from competition, too, including cliff jumping, bungee jumping and skydiving.

Here, we explore five things to know about the American, who will look to continue her excellence at Beijing 2022.

Making history in PyeongChang: ‘Here comes Diggins!’

Diggins trailed Sweden’s Stina Nilsson as the skiers turned onto the final straightaway in PyeongChang, the American digging deep to make up the deficit and dramatically capture a slim triumph, registered at just 0.19 seconds, or half a ski length.

Perhaps as iconic as Diggins’ come-from-behind victory was NBC commentator’s Chad Salmela’s call of the final seconds, in which he roared, again and again, “He comes Diggins!”

Joy in racing: ‘Powered by sparkles’

Exemplified in her PyeongChang golden effort, Diggins says she likes to push herself to the limits. One way she taps into that mentality is by keeping things fun, decorating her face with sparkly glitter before each race.

“Putting glitter on before a race is this reminder to myself that I get to do this, that I have to remember to have fun,” she said in an Instagram video. “That is my game face to get ready to go out there.”

She stayed true to that tradition in 2018, donning red, white and blue glitter stars for the Olympics.

Opening up on eating disorder

Diggins revealed in 2019 that she struggled with bulimia as a teenager, detailing her journey in her book, Brave Enough, which was released in March of 2020.

“When I was 18 and I had an eating disorder, I needed to know that it wasn’t my fault and that getting help was a brave thing to do,” Diggins told Olympic Channel (below).

Diggins said she received an outpouring of support and became “a better role model” after the revelation, and partnered with the Emily Program, an organisation that provides treatment for eating disorders.

Diggins has also used her platform to bring awareness to climate change issues and encourage more young girls to get active in sport.

Tour de Ski: Creating more history

Diggins has her eyes on Beijing 2022, and in early 2021 became the first American skier to capture the Tour de Ski, the multi-stage event modelled after cycling’s Tour de France.

Norwegian women had won the last seven years in the Tour de Ski. The team sat out the latest installment due to Covid-19 concerns.

"This is a lifelong goal. It means a lot," Diggins said after the triumph. On her Instagram, she wrote: “A career moment come to life.”

Diggins earned two World Cup firsts in 2021, as well as two Stage World Cup wins.

Jessie Diggins in action - glitter included
Picture by 2019 Dustin Satloff

From skis to keyboard: Blogging her adventures

Diggins keeps fans posted of her journeys on the course and off of it via a blog on her personal website. It’s there that she talks about racing, travelling, the best diet for training, an athlete’s mindset and more.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that you don’t have to feel perfect the morning before the race... Even if your body doesn’t feel on fire,” she wrote in February of 2021. “Being able to refocus on the positive, narrow down your window to what you CAN do, what you need to do technically and with your pacing to achieve a good race, is important.”

Via her blog entries, Diggins lets fans dig into her thoughts and feelings behind an Olympic athlete’s steely façade.