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Jessie Diggins is a U.S. cross-country ski powerhouse after 2nd World Cup win

Jessie Diggins celebrates winning the Women's 20 km Mass Start FIS World Cup skiing competition in Falun, Sweden, on Sunday.
Anders Wiklund
/
TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Jessie Diggins celebrates winning the Women's 20 km Mass Start FIS World Cup skiing competition in Falun, Sweden, on Sunday.

The most dominant cross-country ski racer in U.S. history, male or female, has done it again.

Competing on Sunday in Falun, Sweden, Jessie Diggins, age 32, won her second World Cup title in a sport long dominated by Europeans.

"My only goal was to have the most fun," said Diggins after her win, in a statement released by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. "I wanted to ski a brave race and put my whole heart out there and that's what I did."

Diggins, whose hometown is Afton, Minn., and who often trains in Vermont, first won an Olympic gold medal in South Korea in 2018.

She's been a powerhouse ever since. She made history as the first American woman to win an overall World Cup title, known as the Crystal Globe, in 2021.

Then she captured silver and bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2022.

Now she's won a second World Cup title, competing in a sequence of races that began in November 2023. She capped a dominant season with Sunday's win in the 20 km freestyle race.

Cross-country skiing combines explosive strength, technique and endurance.

In recent years, Diggins — like other athletes — has spoken publicly about the emotional challenges of competition, including her own struggle with an eating disorder.

Diggins said before this year's season that she had suffered a relapse of the condition, after 12 years in recovery.

"It's been a lot of ups and downs and it hasn't been easy," Diggins said in her statement on Sunday. "It's been a hard year and that's why it's so special that we did it together," she said of her team.

Diggins is the most successful U.S. athlete to attempt to compete in a sport where European athletes hold big advantages. Cross-country skiing is far more popular and professionally lucrative in Europe, especially in Nordic countries.

Unlike most other top-tier American cross-country ski racers, Diggins has managed to keep winning. After her latest victory she credited her coaches and teammates.

"I'm really proud of how the season ended, but I'm even more proud of my team for being there for me," she said.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.