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Olympian Diggins returns to speak at Woodbury alma mater

Olympic cross country skier Jessie Diggins, of Afton, visited Valley Crossing Community School, her former school, where she spoke with students. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith).

Olympian Jessie Diggins returned to her old stomping grounds last week.

The Afton resident who competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics as a cross-country skier, spoke with students May 7 at Valley Crossing Community School, which she previously attended.

Skiing in Sochi

Diggins, 22, first started skiing with her dad when she was younger.

“I spent my whole life on the snow,” she said.

The Stillwater Area High School graduate has competed in races all over the world from France to Switzerland to Germany to Finland to Italy.

“That’s one of the really fun parts about my job,” she said, “I get to race all over the world.”

This past February, Diggins competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“(The Olympics) represents all the countries coming together,” she said.

Diggins competed in the 15-kilometer skiathlon race, where she earned eighth place with a time of 40 minutes, 5.5 seconds.

In the skiathlon, competitors ski 7.5 kilometers in the classic style then switch skis and repeat in the free-skate style.

“It’s like two races combined into one,” she said.

Since Diggins spent a total of three weeks in Sochi during the Olympics, she said she and the other athletes were continually trying to find ways to keep themselves busy.

“You can’t think about one race for three weeks,” she said. “You’ll go crazy.”

Sharing advice

While talking with students at Valley Crossing, Diggins shared advice on how to reach the Olympics. She suggested students set goals, harness their balance, strength and coordination, and embrace teamwork.

“You can’t get anywhere doing it by yourself,” she said.

Additionally, Diggins told students to be prepared for challenges because it’s not easy to get to the Olympics.

“There will be ups and downs,” she said, “but, the ups of the job are awesome.”

Diggins said the most important advice she could give to students is to believe in themselves.

“You have to be the first person to tell yourself ‘I can do this,’” she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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