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Jessie Diggins makes podium at Worlds in Minnesota

Diggins Sean Rogers

Illustration by Sean Rogers 


Feb. 18 and 19 saw the greatest cross country skiers in the world converge in the Twin Cities for a stop on the International Ski Federation World Cup. Thousands of North American fans entered and the American team emerged with a historic showing of two podium finishes. 


The event was a positive pulse check on a historically anemic United States cross country skiing scene, sparked to life in recent years by the speed of Minnesotan Jessie Diggins. 


Diggins, who entered the weekend sitting atop the World Cup standings, could easily be picked out on the frozen course when taking warm-up laps, as the crowd roared to life whenever she drew near. The noise only grew when the real racing began. As the American racers flew by, they were met with yells, chants, and the clanging of cowbells, a traditional instrument in the arsenal of cross country ski fans. 


Bolstered by the large turnout of her hometown crowd, Diggins battled her way through qualifying heats to earn fourth place in the sprint competition Saturday, before climbing onto the podium with a third place finish in Sunday’s 10k. Swede Jonna Sundling may have taken top place in both races, but Diggins certainly won the weekend, putting on an impressive show for both her state and country.


Before Jessie Diggins, the United States had not only lagged behind the Scandinavian powerhouses of Norway and Sweden in cross country skiing, but American skiers had essentially been non-factors throughout the modern history of the sport. For 42 years the silver medal won by Bill Koch in 1976 gathered dust as the U.S.’s lone Olympic prize. That all changed with the breakthrough victory of Diggins and relay teammate Kikkan Randall at the 2018 Pyeongchang games, delivering the U.S. its first gold. Diggins went on to double the U.S. medal total in 2022, bringing home an individual silver and bronze medal from the Beijing games.


Following her gold medal performance in 2018, Diggins lobbied for the World Cup to return to U.S. soil for the first time since 2001. Her dream of competing on home soil was delayed in 2020, as the COVID 19 pandemic canceled the competition a mere five days before Minneapolis was set to host. In 2024, Diggins, who now stands alone as the greatest American skier ever with an overall World Cup victory in 2020-21 and three runner-up finishes, saw that dream come true in Minneapolis.


However, Diggins was not the only American to score a podium finish in Minneapolis. In a surprise turn of events, 23-year-old Alaskan Gus Schumacher found magical form in the 10k race and became just the third American man to win a World Cup race, and the first since 2013. As the first American cross-country skier to win an individual junior world title, Schumacher has never lacked in promise. Postrace, he explained through tears how he had had the “best day ever,” but American fans can now hope that there will be many more good days from Schumacher to come.


Even European skiers appreciated their time racing in the U.S., as Norwegian superstar Johannes Høsflot Klæbo confidently declared, “I think we need to come back here way more often.” 

Most of the fanfare that wowed the competitors should be attributed to Diggins. It cannot be overstated the impact the inspiring Minnesotan has had on skiing in America. 

“I remember when she won that first relay medal. I was a part of the ‘Diggins Effect’, where a bunch of girls started skiing,” said Keely Spens ‘24. “I think it’s exciting because hopefully all this convinces people to keep their ski programs around. I’m looking at you, St. Olaf.”

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