3 minutes reading time (547 words)

Brave Enough, the Autobiography of Jessie Diggins


What happens when an American wins the first-ever Olympic gold medal in cross country skiing? She writes a book. Brave Enough by Jessie Diggins with Todd Smith was just released by University of Minnesota Press and it is just what the doctor ordered if you need a pick-me-up while staying at home during COVID.

This story reveals all there is to see about gold medalist cross country skier Jessie Diggins who claims “at the core, I’m an ordinary girl from the Midwestern United States.” She’s authentic and honest and shares her triumphs and struggles with the reader from her childhood love of the outdoors to occurrences with the media and in public after she won Olympic gold.

Jessie goes from a middle and high school superstar cross country skier in Minnesota to battling the guilt and shame connected to bulimia, a dangerous eating disorder that twisted around her soul with emotional baggage associated with being an overworked perfectionist. Incredibly, this woman who had perceived weight problems at the root of her bulimia rehabilitates to such a point where she’s able to ski naked for photos in the ESPN Body issue

Talking openly about her life and the hard daily work training as a professional cross country skier, Jessie brings us to the culmination in 2018 with her blow-by-blow of the team sprint race where she stretched out to cross the finish line for a gold medal beating out the vaunted Norwegian and Swedish competitors in the Pyeongchang Olympics. After winning the first-ever gold medal for American cross country ski racers, Jessie and her sprint teammate Kikkan Randall briefly became overnight media darlings visiting numerous national TV programs. Going into this race of a lifetime, one of Jessie’s custom-designed ski gloves had the phrase “your race” and the other had “your moment” embroidered on the palms. I guess so.

Diggins emphasizes her teammates on the US Nordic ski team and focuses a spotlight on the people who supported their efforts. Setting goals and revealing where she goes when she pushes past her limits are revelations to those who are not top-notch competitors. Prior to Pyeongchang during Jessie’s racing career she imparts a moment before a race when her coach is telling her corny jokes to steer her mind away from pre-race nervousness when referring to her preparatory ritual she states, “I did my 5-minute Level 3 pickup, then took my inhaler for my asthma.” Oh, and the world-class cross country skier also has asthma.

In a significant 10 kilometer race prior to the Olympics, Jessie finished in fourth place when she skied her heart out and showed her grit only to fall short of a medal by 3.3 seconds - and afterward, she tells of how truly happy she was for her competitors who stood on the podium instead of her, stating, “I respect, admire, and care about them as people as well as athletes.” This perceptive outlook shows Jessie at her best.

Rather than provide too many details about Brave Enough, I strongly suggest you read it. While Brave Enough is a must-read for all cross country skiers, if you are not into cross country skiing and you read this biographical tale, you’ll find yourself undoubtedly rooting and cheering for Jessie Diggins in the 2022 winter Olympics!

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