This gold medal wasn’t a surprise- it was practiced by Randall, Diggins, and the others for years. They just needed the right opportunity.
I don’t generally go in for over-hyped events like the Olympics, but I’ll admit the medal ceremony made me a bit misty-eyed. They so earned it.
I can’t figure out why this win isn’t front-page news on every site. (Joking- there’s lots of seriously important things happening elsewhere). But I could probably go on and on about this and what it says about ‘the human condition’.
I take issue with the tone of the article by Sam Anderson in the NYTImes magazine, but he did get one thing right: no one keeps going at a sport like this unless they really like it. See this photo gallery from The Anchorage Daily News and you’ll notice from the dates that Kikkan Randall probably took about ten years to get to internationally competitive form.
To me the story is not how surprising this win is, but how justified. If you scan the results of the women’s cross-country team over the last five or so years you see that they’ve been steadily improving. This isn’t the first time US women have gone head-to-head with Kalla, Bjoergen, Nilsson, Falla and the like. It’s the experience and work over those years that got them ready for the moment that happened Wednesday evening.
Viewing the whole race, you can see that the women executed really well, across both the semifinals and the finals. The US men did well in the execution of their semifinal and final, but they didn’t quite have enough to get in striking range of the podium. Yet.
The wonderful part about the win by Diggins and Randall isn’t that they pulled this victory out of their ***, it’s that they worked steadily and persistently for years to get to a place where just a little bit of lightning would make the difference between podium and fifth. We just got to see everything come together at the most absolutely perfect time and place.
Some choice bits from Fasterskier:
“I have never seen such a possessed, will-not-lose moment in my entire career”
Kikkan Randall: “We have an amazing group of junior skiers and U23 [athletes] that are coming up. They won a medal in the relay at the World Juniors last year, we had another girl that was on the podium twice at World Juniors this year, our junior men were on the podium at World Juniors, so I think the door has been opened.”
Jessie Diggins: “I think I asked [Randall], ‘Did we just win the Olympics?’… but I just was so excited and so happy and also I couldn’t feel my legs.”
Tiger Shaw, U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO: “We were just screaming our brains out in amazement. Just thinking of the energy and the excitement of that I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life.”
Luke Bodensteiner, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Chief of Sport: “Our head coach in alpine texts me said, ‘I have never seen such a possessed, will-not-lose moment in my entire career.’”
Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Norwegian men’s team-sprint winner:”I think all athletes admire the head of Jessie Diggins. That’s fantastic.”
(A slightly puzzling comment but I think he’s referring to having a steady focus and will to win)