AFTON, Minn. - To understand a champion is to know Jessie Diggins. The 21 year-old Nordic Skier from Afton has the total package: natural ability, outstanding attitude and loads of tenacity.
"There are days when it's raining or snowing out and it's so cold and you have to go out there and ski for a couple of hours. That's when you just have to grit your teeth and say alright, you know, no one else in the world is training as hard as I am right now," Diggins said. "This is going to pay off."
The 2013 Nordic World Championship established Diggins as one of the toughest competitors in the sport of Nordic Skiing.
"A lot of it is mental training and just being mentally tough, really," said Diggins. "Because, you can always push harder than you think you can. And to be able to get to that point in a race or during intervals in training where you're going as fast as you can possibly go, and then you go a little bit faster."
It's a mind set instilled in her at a young age, while riding in her dad's backpack.
Deb Diggins (mother) interview:
"She'd say mush daddy, go faster, and then fall asleep," said Jessie's mother, Deb Diggins.
The Diggins are an outdoors family. As an active force in the Minnesota ski community, they always supported their daughter's interests.
"When she was probably 10 or 11 years old, she was skiing with a club that we were leaders of, a youth ski league group, and she was skiing with some of the high school kids and placing along with the high school kids," said Deb.
In the 7th grade, Jessie made the shift from student competitor to serious contender.
"She got thrown into the race, actually, towards the course, and like oh-oh, all of a sudden, 7th grade, we got something here," said Jessie's father, Clay Diggins.
Jessie went on to win several Minnesota State High School ski honors. And when it came time to go to college, she chose instead to carry on her dream.
"I loved every part of it," Jessie said. "I loved the travel, being on a team full-time, racing on the national circuit. And when I got to go over to Europe Championships and then I got a spot on the US ski team, I said alright, this is it."
Of all of Jessie's redeeming qualities, perhaps the most notable is her commitment to her family, her team and her sport.
"Just to be able to represent my family, Minnesota, the United States of America. I'm so excited, and I really hope I can make the country proud and help bring home a medal for the team," said Jessie.