Afton native Jessie Diggins prepares for Sochi - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Afton native Jessie Diggins prepares for Sochi

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AFTON, Minn. (KTTC) -- The 2014 Olympic Games are days away and athletes across the globe are preparing for their trip to Sochi.

One cross-country skier aiming for gold is a Minnesota native -- Jessie Diggins.

As a member of the US Ski Team, Jessie Diggins spends a lot of time traveling the world, training in some of the best locations for cross country skiing.

Now with a World Championship gold medal under her belt, she's gearing up for Sochi, and those who know her well say she's more than deserving of all her success.

For Jessie Diggins, a love of cross country skiing started in the Minnesota winters at a very young age.

"Before I could walk, my dad would put me in his backpack, and we would go skiing and I would yell 'Mush Dad! Mush!' and pull on his hair," she said. "And I thought it was so great when he would go fast."

"She rode in the backpack until she was probably about 3-years-old or so," said her father, Clay Diggins. "Then later on when she was skiing, her sister took rides in the backpack."

And the Afton native kept to it. What started as a hobby turned into a passion, something that wasn't surprising to her parents.

"Anything Jessie does she does 110 percent," her father said. "I mean she just totally goes for it."

But Jessie's former coach and long time friend says there was a moment when Jessie was in 7th grade where it all seemed to change, and she realized Jessie wasn't just any skier.

"She got thrown into a really big race at the last minute because another one of our skiers got sick, and she ended up winning the race which was all of the best skiers in our conference," said Kris Hansen.

After years of success as a student, Jessie had to make the decision to follow her passion full time and realize a dream.

"You know I can go to college at any time in my life, but there are only so many years that I'm going to be able to train the way I am now, the way I need to train if I want to try to be one of the best in the world," Jessie said.

Now after a World Championship gold medal, and a World Cup victory, Jessie is about to take on a lifelong goal.

"I thought, you know, I want to do that someday," she said. "I want to be there walking into the opening ceremony, waving to my parents."

She's doing just that, with friends, family, the state of Minnesota and the support of the entire country at her back.

"She's such a genuine person and she's so generous with her success, it makes it easy to really be happy for her," Hansen said.

Jessie's parents are making the trip over to Sochi for the games, and her supporters at home are planning ways to watch and keep up with her events.

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