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WORLD CHAMPIONS! (2/25/13)

 
Me and Jessie Diggins (left) chest bumping after winning gold in
the team sprint

WORLD CHAMPIONS… Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually writing this right now.  It hasn’t sunk in yet.  Surely I am about to wake up, this is just a dream.  Did that really just happen?! 

It’s barely been 24 hours since I crossed the finish line in the team sprint and together with my teammate Jessie Diggins, we became the first Americans to win world championship gold in cross-country skiing.  I still feel like I’m floating a few inches off the ground.  The endorphins and positive energy have not worn off yet.  This goal has been over a decade in the making and it’s been beyond amazing to actually experience the sequence of events I’ve visualized hundreds of times in my head.

Yesterday was a very special day.  We came into the team sprint knowing that if we both skied well and were able to avoid any major trouble, we could be in the hunt for a medal and possibly even the victory.  This meant there was more pressure on us than we’re used to.  Thankfully, we were able to remain calm, focused and confident.

 
Me and Jessie celebrating!

The team sprint is one of the most demanding cross-country races.  Each team consists of two members that ski alternating laps around a 1.2-kilometer course until both members have each completed three laps.  First there is a semifinal round, with only the two top teams automatically advancing to the final.  Then there is about an hour break before it’s time to do the whole thing over again!!  The race is a mass-start format which means you are racing closely with many other teams, and with skis and poles involved, there is always contact.  In order to be successful in this event you have to have depth, endurance, a little luck, and still enough speed to sprint into the finish!

Jessie and I skied strong and smart to take the top qualifying position out of the semifinal.  This gave us confidence that our form was strong and our skis were fast.  But of course, the competition would be tougher in the final! 

 

Through the opening few rounds of the final we were in good position.  While I got ready to click into my bindings for my last lap, I heard the announcer call out that Jessie was making a move to drop the pack.  Even though she momentarily lost her pole and had to get a new one, she tagged off to me with a few seconds lead.  It was so thrilling going into that last lap to be on a lone run to take the gold.

When I crossed that finish line, my legs were so wobbly I crashed down into the snow.  Jessie came running over and we both got to take in what had just happened for the first time.  What an amazing moment to share with a teammate!  This for sure blows any individual success I’ve ever had right out of the water!  And then our teammates and coaches were there to celebrate with us. 

There are so many things you don’t even know to prepare for.  What will you do in front of the photographers when your victory is just a few seconds old?  Will you remember the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” when the flag is raised?  How can you possibly express to your relay partner and all the people that helped you get to this moment how grateful you are for their support?  It’s funny how so much time is spent building up to these races and then, when it actually happens, it’s the most epic flurry of activity you could ever imagine.

While it’s been a total whirlwind, I have an incredible feeling of satisfaction and genuine gratitude for all it’s taken to get here.  I competed at World Championships here in Val di Fiemme 10 years ago when a medal wasn’t even a remote possibility.  It’s pretty cool to think about how far we’ve come.   And pretty cool to think about where we’re still going to go! 

We still have a few more races left at this World Championships, so now it’s back to work!

Please check out the video of the race and some exciting highlights of our historic day on the U.S. Ski Team YouTube channel. Thanks for tuning in!