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Jessie Diggins sets more goals after Olympic gold

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Here comes Jessie Diggins.

Diggins, who in PyeongChang teamed with Kikkan Randall to win the U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title, heads to Europe on Monday to ramp up training for the World Cup season that begins Thanksgiving weekend.

She plans to work her way into top fitness, peaking at the world championships in Austria in late February. Though Diggins has her Olympic gold, the 27-year-old rattles off goals with the kind of excitement that jibes with the face glitter with which she is known to race.

“There’s so many things left to accomplish, but I think one of my biggest ones that would mean so much to me is if we got a medal in the 4x5km relay,” Diggins said in a recent interview. “That really shows the strength of the team and depth of the team. For me, that would be possibly the most meaningful thing to ever accomplish.”

Diggins was part of the last three world championships relays. The U.S. finished fourth in 2013, 2015 and 2017. In PyeongChang, the Americans were fifth. If they are to make the podium either this season or at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, it must be without stalwart Randall.

The Alaskan retired after her fifth Olympics. In July, Randall announced she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She has documented treatment the last four months, including posing for a photo after surgery this week wearing a pink Superman crown, holding an orange popsicle and lifting a thumbs-up.

“She’s doing such a great job, going after this newest challenge with so much tenacity and strength and courage,” Diggins said. “We’re there to support her in every way that we can.”

Diggins not only takes over the role as veteran U.S. leader on the World Cup, but also remains one of the biggest challengers to Norwegian dominance. In the last Olympic cycle, she moved from 22nd in the World Cup overall standings in 2015 to eighth in 2016, sixth in 2017 and runner-up to Heidi Weng last year.

Three Norwegians combined to win the last five World Cup overall titles. Although 15-time Olympic medalist Marit Bjørgen retired after PyeongChang, two-time World Cup overall champion Therese Johaug is now eligible to return from a two-season ban over lip cream.

“It would be pretty cool to some day try to win the crystal globe, try to get the overall to show that you can compete in every event throughout the entire season,” said Diggins, whose five individual World Cup race wins came in 5km and 10km freestyles. “That’s a huge, huge reach goal, but I was second by 40 points last year, so I guess it’s not the craziest goal to have.”

Bill Koch is the lone American to win a World Cup overall title, doing so in 1982. He was also the lone U.S. Olympic cross-country medalist until February. The Diggins and Randall team sprint victory was groundbreaking in itself, but the “Here Comes Diggins!” exclamatory call by NBC Olympics analyst Chad Salmela also added impact.

Diggins could not estimate how many times she has heard the phrase in the last eight months. She has known the fellow Minnesota native Salmela since high school.

Diggins has been feted across the Land of 10,000 Lakes since returning from South Korea. She was honored with her own day and ice cream in her hometown of Afton. She was overwhelmed by the response to revealing her teenage eating disorder.

“It was really emotional at times, because I heard from these young girls who reminded me of me,” she told NBC’s affiliate in Minneapolis.

While appearing at a fundraiser for a World Cup event to be held in Minneapolis in 2020, a man with the Minnesota Vikings asked if she would speak to the football team. She obliged and afterward praised the players twice her size for the respect shown to her.

“I can’t tell you all the secrets, but basically the message was how do we focus on what we can control so that we can perform when it matters,” she said. “Like I said to them, I don’t know anything about football. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. They’re the experts. But I do know what it’s like to work so hard day after day, going after these crazy goals with the team. I know what works in my sport when it comes to focusing in and trying to peak at the right moment.”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expanded after the team won their following game.

“Basically she talked about how everybody can do anything for 10 things, whether it’s 10 push-ups, or as she said, ’10km, but I would count ten strides,'” Zimmer said. “Who knows if any of that stuff is a big factor in winning, but it gets you to think about what’s important and how you can overcome when you’re tired, basically about sucking it up.”

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MORE: Best cross-country skiing moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Lindsey Vonn and her dog to host Amazing Race-like series

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn and one of her three dogs, Lucy, will host “The Pack,” an “Amazing Race”-like series where dogs and their humans compete in challenges across continents.

The Amazon Prime show filmed earlier this year and will premiere later in 2020. Production included a team of veterinarians and dog experts to ensure “a positive experience for everyone.”

Twelve teams vie for a prize of $500,000, plus $250,000 for the animal charity of their choice.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion and female record holder with 82 World Cup wins, retired after the February 2019 World Championships, four shy of the overall victories record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

She traveled the last few years of her career with Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she got in Italy in January 2016. Lucy required German, Italian and American passports to accompany Vonn on the ski circuit.

Vonn previously adopted rescue dogs Leo, a brindle boxer to help her through recovery from knee surgery that kept her out of the 2014 Olympics, and Bear.

Vonn’s previous broadcast credits included a 2010 appearance as a secretary on “Law & Order,” two judge spots on “Project Runway” and an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” in 2016.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s mom is tough as nails

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London Marathon mass event canceled; Kipchoge, Bekele still to race

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The London Marathon will not hold a mass participation race of 40,000-plus runners, but will have an elites-only event featuring the fastest marathoners in history on a different course.

Organizers announced that the World Marathon Major, previously rescheduled for Oct. 4 from April 26, will be restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elite runners, including world-record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest man in history, will instead race but not on the usual route around London landmarks.

They will run on an enclosed looped in St. James’s Park in a “secure biosphere” without spectator access. Elite wheelchair racers, including past champions David Weir and Manuela Schar, will also compete.

Before canceling, London Marathon organizers planned to use Bluetooth and wideband ranging to monitor every participant’s distance from each other, though they did not specify if the event would have still included more than 40,000 runners.

If a participant spent more than 15 minutes within a specified distance of anyone else, and if somebody had informed organizers they contracted the virus within two weeks after the race, he or she would have been contacted.

“Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run,” event director Hugh Brasher said in press release.

Four of the other five annual World Marathon Majors this year were canceled — Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City. The earliest major, Tokyo, was held March 1 with elite runners only.

Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion from Kenya, and Bekele, a three-time Olympic track champion from Ethiopia, were previously announced as headliners for London in the winter, before the pandemic.

Kipchoge lowered the world record to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Bekele clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last September. They are the only men to ever break 2:02 in a marathon. Kipchoge also clocked 1:59:40 at a non-record-eligible event in Vienna on Oct. 12 instead of racing a fall marathon.

Kipchoge has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

Bekele, the more accomplished track athlete with Olympic golds and world records at 5000m and 10,000m, has been a roller-coaster road runner.

Bekele owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history, recorded three years apart in Berlin. In between, he failed to finish two marathons and, in his last London start in 2018, clocked a pedestrian 2:08:53 for sixth place.

That was more than four minutes behind Kipchoge, who is undefeated in four London starts and has beaten by Bekele by at least 100 seconds in all four of their head-to-head marathons.

The Kenyan Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

The 2021 London Marathon will also be held in October to give a better chance of holding a mass race than in April.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results