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By Jessie Diggins, Salomon Nordic Athletes, USA

Wow! I don’t know what to say, except that I’ve been so fortunate to have such a strong team that helped me get my second career World Cup win in early December! You can’t ever accomplish anything alone in life, and all the hours of training with my teammates, the support from family, friends and the ski community, and our hard working staff and techs combined to give me an incredible opportunity during the 5km skate in Lillehammer. So this was a win for the team.

My race strategy was fairly simple: to go out hard, hold it, and ski every second of that 12 or 13-minute race (because we knew it would be a short, fast, hard effort) as well as I possibly could. The swooping turns and fast downhills played to my strengths so I took advantage of every second I could gain in those spots, and on the long up-hills I just put my head down and hammered.

It was a little surreal. When you’re having one of your best races ever and you’re so “in the zone” that all you can focus on is every step and every little inch of the course. You don’t even feel pain like normal. Don’t get me wrong – everything still hurt, but the way I was pushing I should have been puking my guts up, not finding a way to push through the pain. We often talk about “the pain cave” as that special place in your mind when your body is screaming and all you want to do is shut down and stop. And I may have some wobbly technique and my head may be flopping from one side to the other, but the one thing I CAN do is willingly crawl right to the back of that cave…and sit there. For a long time. There’s actually a prickly little lawn chair with my name on it!

When I crossed the finish, I couldn’t even stand up, I was so tired. But when I’d laid in the snow for a while and gotten my breathing back under control, I heard the announcer saying my name over and over again and I thought, “Well, if Mom and Dad are watching this I’d better wave Hi!”, so I did.

I was definitely ‘fan-girling’ over Marit at the finish. She gave me a big hug and complimented me on my downhills, and I was actually speechless, just staring at her like: “Wow, can I have another hug, please?” It’s always so cool to see that the best in the world are human, too (and they give great hugs)! Heidi was so happy for me, and even before the race we were giving each other high-fives and wishing each other good luck. She told me she thought I would do really well that day, and I told her how psyched I was for her classic sprint win. It’s really fun having friends from around the world and although during the race each person is, of course, totally focused on going as fast as they can, you are friends up until the second you start and friends from the second you finish.

After the race finished it was a whirlwind of hugs and thanks from athletes and staff from every country, and it was so fun to have people happy with me. We had the flower ceremony and press conference, and then it was time to get ready for the next day.

A big, huge thanks so all my sponsors and team who made this win possible for me, and I’m so excited to see what the season will bring!