I came onto the international circuit in cross-country skiing right as the entire U.S. Cross-country skiing team and community was on the upswing. We had coming off of a period of really lackluster performance and lack of support for two decades. And we, as a team had this goal of winning another medal and we thought that it could be gold. We thought that we could be one of the best cross-country ski teams in the world. And this vision was really led by one of my female teammates, Kikkan Randall. She had been on the team for a decade and she’d been through the period in the 2000s. And all of a sudden she was the best sprinter in the world, starting in 2012. And she won the sprint overall World Cup globe and she won it again in 2013 and in 2014 she had the same result and we all thought that she was going to break through and win… Not only win a medal but win a gold medal. Be the first medal ever for U.S. Women’s cross-country skiing and the first gold medal ever for U.S. cross-country skiing.
She was the favorite going into the sprint in Sochi in 2014 and she had a day that all athletes know is out there and kind of dread. And it was just, she was off. She just didn’t have it on that day. Things didn’t come out together, she was eliminated in the quarter finals, and I know that it was devastating for Kikkan and having traveled with her and viewing her like a sister at that point, like one of my best friends, it was so hard to watch because I knew how hard she had worked. And it was her fourth Olympic games and the vision that she had had from the time she was 15 years old and the way that she had brought all of us as a team up with her had been incredible. And to watch that disappointment was heartbreaking. And Kikkan took some time away from the sport to have a child in between the 2014 to 2018 Olympics and we all missed her dearly.
And when she came back, she seemed to be in the sport for a different reason. She was there because she loved it. She wanted to be there. She was so positive it seemed like that the disappointment from Sochi was not around at all. It was a struggle of course, to give back after so much time off and yet her professionalism was inspiring. And the other thing was that our other teammate, Jessie Diggins, who is almost 10 years younger than Kikkan had been on the upswing and Jessie was more or less a product of Kikkan’s ability to bring the team with her. Kikkan had been a role model for Jessie and had really shown Jessie the belief that we as a country can be best in the world. And Jessie had taken this to heart and was showing it and was having some of the best results that U.S. had ever had.
And going into the 2018 Olympics, Jessie was on a roll. She was having the season of her life and in the first four races at the Olympics, she wasn’t worse than seventh place, but she didn’t quite get that medal. And all of a sudden the team sprint comes around and this was an event that Jessie and Kikkan had teamed up to win in 2013 World Championships. And they went out and they put together the race of their lives and they did what all of us knew they could do. And they won gold at the Olympics, first gold medal ever for this country and first medal ever for U.S. Women’s cross-country skiing. And they validated the belief that all of us had in them. And they really showed us what hard work can do.
But also this pairing up of this athlete who had been the role model and had been there and created this team around her for 15 years, five Olympics. Pairing up with Jessie who had been the up-and-coming athlete and had been a product of everything Kikkan had put in. For them to team up to win this medal is a moment of kind of global sportsmanship and really overcoming adversity and just everything that we love in athletics. The highlight of my career is being there at the finish line watching them do this. And it’s something that I am going to take inspiration from for the rest of my life.