“I like to go really slow, like 10 minutes of miles,” Jessie Diggins said of this fall as she put on a vest filled with water bottles and snacks before a morning run in Central Park.
A preference for “slow” isn’t what you’d expect to hear from an Olympic cross-country skier and world champion — not even when she’s just been running. Diggins mainly makes his living chasing speed on snow, but that was still a month before the start of the Nordic World Cup season on Friday in Ruka, Finland.
Diggins was in New York for the US Ski and Snowboard Association’s annual gala, where she was one of the stars.
That’s what happens when you’re part of the duo that ended the country’s 42-year cross-country medal drought in an epic finish at the 2018 Olympics, and then you back that up with two other medals at the Beijing Olympics last February. Diggins is better known as a sprinter than a distance specialist, but she won her second medal in Beijing – a silver in the 30-kilometre race – after food poisoning left her doesn’t even make it to the starting line. She blocked out the pain, as she often does given the nature of her sport, and made up her mind to win a medal. She said the race took weeks, if not months, to recover from, but it was worth it.
Nine months later, Diggins was beginning to focus on the upcoming season and developing his base fitness. And so, a slow three-hour run through Central Park.
“Never too fast not to be able to carry on a conversation,” she said.
Or conduct an interview.
She explained that she and her teammates spend so much time doing intense workouts on roller skis or cross-country skis that when running or cycling to build or maintain fitness, they can give it a break. in their mind and just enjoy it. But when they’re with Diggins, they spend their time quizzing her – arguably the most successful cross-country skier the country has produced – about her training and racing techniques.
It’s part of an evolution for Diggins: from wonderkid to seasoned veteran in a team that improves every year as they stand up to the sport’s European powerhouses. For Diggins, medals, championships and magazine covers have given him a platform to be heard on matters close to his heart.
She testified on Capitol Hill earlier this year about climate change, which poses an existential threat to her sport. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, she takes every opportunity to discuss it as well.
This season will bring another opportunity to spread a message close to her heart, namely women’s equality.
In May, the International Ski Federation voted to have men and women race the same distances at the World Cup.
In the Olympics, women have historically run shorter distances than men. For the split-start race, the women covered 10 kilometers compared to 15 for the men. In skiathlon, which combines freestyle and classic techniques, women ran 15 kilometers and men 30. The longest races were 30 kilometers for women and 50 for men.
The new World Cup format will feature individual races of 10, 20 and 50 kilometres.
“The main argument for voting for equal distances was that it shouldn’t be a question of whether women were able to walk the same distances as men, because they prove that they are physically capable of doing it already”, the federation said after the measure was passed. with 57% of the votes.
In a conference call on Monday, Diggins said running shorter distances than men made him “feel like shit and really sad.”
“Turns out we’re fine,” she said facetiously. She and other women in her sport have long trained for distances of 50 kilometers and more.
But it won’t just be about proving female physical prowess. “It sends a really important message” to girls, Diggins said.
The message: “You are totally capable of doing anything. If you train hard and work hard, you can do it.
The change has Diggins, the 2021 overall cross country champion, setting her sights on winning the first women’s 50 kilometer race.
She’ll need a good bit of stamina to pull this off – and a bit of speed too.