Jessie Diggins grew up in Afton, Minn. and graduated from Stillwater Area High School. Growing up in the Saint Croix Valley, it isn’t surprising that she began skiing as a little girl. But skiing was more than a pastime for Diggins and her passion for it wasn’t something she outgrew. In fact, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall could have won a gold medal in the category of women’s team sprint. What they did win, was the United States' first ever cross-country skiing gold medal.
Diggins' little sister Mackenzie inherits the family backpack while Diggins tries out her own skis. (photo courtesy of Jessie Diggins)
From learning to ski at age 4 to winning a gold medal in her mid-twenties Diggins has worked incredibly hard, dealt with physical and emotional pain, dealt with an eating disorder and learned to accept herself—win or lose. That’s the story she tells in her book Brave Enough. The book, which was co-written with veteran sportswriter, Todd Smith, is more than a sports book, Diggins says.
“I hope readers see something of themselves in my story,” she says. “It’s an ordinary story played out on a less ordinary stage.”
Diggins says that she wanted the book to tell more than just the story of how she won … she wanted to tell the story of all the times she didn’t. She was willing to be completely honest about all of her story because she hopes that it will help to change the conversation about what it means to be successful.
“I try to invest in the process,” she says. “You can’t tie your self-worth to winning. You may have the best race of your life and not win. You have to be able to celebrate your success.”
Diggins' support team at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Back row, left to right: Aunt Holly Murdoch, Wade Poplawski, Uncle Blair Murdoch, Clay Diggins. Front row, left to right: me, Grandma Betty Santa, Deb Diggins, Mackenzie Diggins. (photo courtesy of Jessie Diggins)
Brave Enough has been described by Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee as “a raw, heart-wrenching, nothing-held-back look at the struggles [Diggins] went through to succeed."
Diggins has continued to ski professionally—she races the World Cup circuit every year from November to March. She lives in Stratton, Vt. where she’s a member of the Stratton Mountain Team.
She is also active off the ski trail. She is an ambassador for the non-profit Fast and Female which says its mission is to “keep girls healthy and active in sports because it sets them up to succeed and lead in life beyond sports.” She also works with Protect Our Winters, an organization that works on climate change issues through the point of view of the outdoor sports community.