Up North: New Nordic Facility Will Help Grow Dreams for Future Medalists

Updated: November 07, 2018 11:01 PM

It was a November day to remember for a large group of kids who circled around 2018 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins and copied her every move in mini workout at the Grand Avenue Chalet at Spirit Mountain.

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"It was fun to just see her in action," said Cloquet-Esko-Carlton junior skier Hannah Zuck. "Just showing us stuff and being a part of it with all of us," she added.

"Making eye contact with her was the craziest thing," said Cloquet-Esko-Carlton eighth grade skier Charlotte Ripp. "It felt like I should be running in slow motion and music should be playing," Ripp added about the moment.

It was their first time meeting the cross country ski icon that made history on their TV's back in February. They watched Diggins become the first U.S. cross country skier to win a medal in the sport in 42 years and the first ever to win gold.

"She's like an inspiration for me," said Zuck. "Especially when she won the gold medal. I have the ending in my head on repeat."

"I've grown up watching her ski and I have all of her posters plastered all over my room," added Ripp.

At the event, Diggins shared memories of that historic day with the crowd on hand.

"I was so focused on every single push of my ski and every single plant in my poles - just putting everything I had into getting to that line first," Diggins explained about her finish.

She expressed how she felt the pressure to win, but knew the only thing she could control was her own effort.

"Those other girls I was up against on paper they should have won," she explained. There's no way I should have pulled that off because they are bigger than me and stronger than me and they have more fast twitch muscles than me."

Inviting Diggins to Spirit Mountain was also a way to call attention to the new Grand Avenue Nordic Ski Center that will be ready to use this winter. The project when finished will have a 5 kilometer cross country ski trail that will offer Nordic-dedicated snow-making for the early and late seasons.

"To me it's like the Heritage Center for hockey in Duluth for skiing," said NBC Olympic analyst and Duluth's Chad Salmela. "We were lacking indoor facilities for hockey for years and then they built this facility with two indoor rinks - that was a really big step for Duluth.

Salmela got to be a part of the 2018 Olympic history. He served as the emotional color commentator as the women's sprint team won the U.S.'s first-ever gold medal.

It was called; "Definitely the greatest live broadcast call in Olympic history," said Yahoo Sports. "NBC's call of historic finish is golden," the Star Tribune called it.

"I think it resonates because it's genuine," said Salmela. It's how I felt and I think I felt for a lot of people in that moment. Those people that felt what I did recognize that," said Salmela reflecting on his call.

Salmela helped orchestrate bringing Diggins to Duluth. After seeing what the project will offer, Diggins expressed her support for it. She believes this is training facility that will create future gold medalists.

"Communities like this, this is where it starts and this is where it happens. This is where the next relay team comes from," said Diggins.

To learn more about the project visit the website here:

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