Team USA scored a breakthrough win at the Winter Olympics, in a sport that hasn’t seen an American medal in more than four decades.
Two U.S. women won gold in the team cross-country ski sprint race. One of them, Jessie Diggins, trains right here in New England.
“It’s really inspirational to see her do something like that,” Stratton Mountain School senior May Chalmers said of Diggins.
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Diggins will bring Olympic gold back to Stratton, after surging to a win in the sprint with teammate Kikkan Randall, ending a long U.S. medal drought in the sport.
“I felt like this coiled spring that just, like, came loose on that last 100 meters,” Diggins said on NBC’s TODAY Show. “I had so much energy. When you have someone that you care about so much waiting for you at the finish, you are never going to give up—ever!”
Diggins is from Minnesota, but is based in southern Vermont for summer and fall training.
She and other pro athletes also work with Stratton Mountain School students and campers as mentors.
Many of those young athletes are now eager to hear Diggins’ stories from the Winter Games.
“Now that she’s accomplished that, it’s setting the standard higher for everybody else,” Chalmers said. “It’s making it seem more attainable and possible moving forward, and that’s certainly motivational in training.”
Stratton sophomore Will Koch is the son of Bill Koch, who was the last American to medal at the Olympics in cross-country, winning silver in 1976.
“My dad was very affected,” Will Koch said Wednesday of the win by Randall and Diggins. “He was just going back and forth between laughing and crying, because he’s been waiting 40 years for someone to join him with the medals.”
“We’ve made huge strides in the past eight or ten years,” Stratton Mountain School Nordic program director Sverre Caldwell said, describing the development of cross-country ski racing in the United States. “Hopefully, this just inspires all the young cross-country skiers all over the country to go out and work a little harder.”
So they, too, can chase their gold medal dreams.