Jessie Diggins skis into world championships on historic roll, wearing powerful message

Jessie Diggins
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Jessie Diggins calls it the cross-country skiing season of her wildest dreams. It’s not over yet.

Diggins, who in 2018 teamed with the since-retired Kikkan Randall to win the U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title, is likely to make more history over the next month.

It could come at the world championships — which start Thursday (TV schedule here) — where she has a chance to become the first American to win an individual gold medal. It will probably happen by the end of the World Cup season later in March.

Diggins holds a 342-point lead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, awarded based on results across all events for the entire season. World championships results don’t count toward the World Cup overall.

There are a handful of World Cup races left after the world championships. The scale is 100 points for a victory, and descending from there. Do the math with Diggins’ lead, and you get an idea of her chances to become the second American ever to take that crown after Bill Koch in 1982.

“It’s always been a big dream of mine to be able to show up ready to play, no matter what it is: distance, sprint, classic [style], skate [style], skiathlon,” Diggins, 29, said last week. “Whatever it is, I want to show up and be ready to give it my best fight. I’m finally getting to that place in my career.”

Rewind to PyeongChang. Diggins, though she won the last World Cup before the Winter Games and ultimately finished second in the overall that season, said recently that she went into her individual events at her second Olympics as a “long-shot hope.” Koch is the only U.S. cross-country skier to earn an individual Olympic medal, back in 1976.

Before that golden team sprint, Diggins finished fifth, fifth and sixth individually in PyeongChang. She missed a medal by 3.3 seconds in her best individual event, the 10km freestyle (which is on the world championships and Olympic program every other edition, including next week but not in 2022).

“Coming so close individually so many times was eye-opening,” she said. “When you’re right there, you know you can make it happen. You know it’s possible. You’ve seen it. It’s five seconds ahead of you.”

ON HER TURF: Diggins on body image education, why sports journalism needs more women

Exactly four months after her last Olympic race, Diggins published what she called “the most important blog I’ll ever write” on her website, titled “Body Issue(s).”

Diggins, after appearing in ESPN the Magazine‘s “Body Issue,” decided to publicly share her experience with disordered eating as a teenager. She hoped to open a conversation about body image.

Ever since, Diggins has raced with a badge across her headband reading “The Emily Program,” a national leader in eating disorder treatment. Diggins, in her high school graduation year of 2010, did what she called the scariest thing in the world, calling the program to get treatment that saved her life.

She wears the headband to remind viewers that it’s OK to have a vulnerable side. It’s OK to ask for help. Her fear is that a young athlete might misattribute her success in the sport to the eating disorder. In reality, she was still in recovery at the time of the PyeongChang Games.

“The only reason I even made it to that Olympics at all was because of The Emily Program and because of my recovery, and because of my support team, and my family, and the amazing teammates around me, and coaches who said we accept you for who you are,” she told NBC Sports before this season.

The Emily Program patch was there when Diggins won three World Cup races, among eight podiums, so far this winter. And most memorably, when she collapsed in exhaustion after the final climb up Alpe Cermis to become the first American to win the Tour de Ski, a Tour de France-like stage race.

“It gave me a lot of confidence in that I felt like I could perform under pressure,” she said of winning the Tour.

The patch was there when, three weeks later in Falun, Sweden, Diggins did something arguably more impressive: hand Norwegian queen Therese Johaug her first straight up defeat in an international distance freestyle race in nearly five years. (Johaug, and the rest of the dominant Norwegians, skipped early season World Cups and the Tour de Ski for coronavirus safety reasons.)

“In the world of skiing, the win at the Tour de Ski followed up very quickly by that win in Falun, it changed the profile of her season for sure, from it being an asterisk season,” said NBC Sports analyst Chad Salmela, who voiced the famous “Here comes Diggins!” call in PyeongChang. “There’s no real asterisk there because she beat Johaug in what Johaug can win at or should win at.”

Johaug is at worlds in Oberstdorf, Germany, where the course suits her better than in Falun. Competition starts with sprints on Thursday.

For Diggins, the team sprint on Sunday and relay on March 4 are special. “If you put my teammates’ goals and hopes and dreams on the line, suddenly I have so much confidence,” she said.

Individually, the key is the 10km freestyle next Tuesday.

Diggins took silver in the event the last time it was contested at worlds in 2015. Johaug missed the next major 10km free at the 2018 Olympics due to a doping ban over lip cream.

“I won’t be surprised if Jessie beats [Johaug], but it will be an upset for sure,” Salmela said.

Diggins’ first skiing experiences came while tucked into her father’s backpack on longer treks in their native Minnesota. She would pull on his hair and yell, “Mush!” because she loved to glide fast. Early on her own skis, Diggins staggered around the Afton Alps and recalled crashing nearly every race in one season.

So team-oriented, she once left an international junior competition before the closing ceremony to make it back to Minnesota for a regional event for her high school. So outgoing, her longtime coach said she took an extrovert test and recorded the maximum score of 25.

“I wouldn’t have been surprised if she actually had 26,” said Jason Cork, who has worked with Diggins since 2010.

This season, she has achieved individual success like never before — in sprints and distance races and in both types of skiing — classic and freestyle (or skate).

“I know that when I cross the finish line, there’s going to be nothing left,” she said. “I feel good about that.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Canada wins men’s hockey world title; Latvia wins first medal

IIHF Hockey World Championship

TAMPERE, Finland — Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the world men’s hockey championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.

Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

Lawson Crouse, Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Adam Fantilli became only the second Canadian player after Jonathan Toews to win gold at the world juniors and world championship the same year.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.


Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

Main draw play began Sunday, live on Peacock.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw