Jessie Diggins: Brave Enough Book Review
We All Need Sports Heroes
These days it can be disappointing having sports heroes, but Jessie Diggins has been a true hero of mine since that time she and Kikkan Randall got a bunch of Tahoe girls excited about cross country skiing as part of the Fast and Female program. She always exhibits a happy, fun, giving it her all, attitude that is quite infectious. Oh and by the way, she is really fast. I’ve watched the 2018 video of her crossing the finish line to win the Olympic Gold Medal at least a dozen times. My heart races and tears of joy come to my eyes every time. In fact, I watched it again just now and dang if I wasn’t laughing and crying again.
In 2020, Diggins published her memoir “Brave Enough.” Her 2018 Olympic medal is how she became famous to folks in the non-cross-country ski world, and she provides precise details in the book about every second of their winning performance. But the race was just the icing on the cake that is her life and skiing career. It’s how she got to that point that makes the book so interesting and fun.
A Familiar Tahoe Story
It was enlightening how familiar her ski career will feel to anyone in the Tahoe cross-country ski community, especially for those who have worked with young Tahoe skiers. She was a hyper-energized kid in Minnesota whose parents are Nordic skiers, and she quickly took to XC skiing. I’m sure her parents were thrilled to find a place for her to expend some of her seemingly boundless energy. She joined a kids program where she fell in love with the sport by skiing with a bunch of friends, which reminds me of Strider Gliders. As her skills improved, she joined a club program that resembles our Devo and Comp Teams here in North Tahoe. Later, she continued to learn and improve her race results with the help of mentors and great coaches, which is similar to our Far West racing program. Her path is quite similar to that followed by top racers from the Tahoe region like JC Schoonmaker and Hannah Halvorsen, who will both be joining Jessie on the US Olympic Team for 2022.
There Are No Shortcuts
Diggins’ book reminds all of us, especially young athletes, that the route to top level racing success as a XC skier is the same everywhere and there are no shortcuts: Fall in love with the sport at an early age. Have the right genes. Have a super competitive spirit. Love to train and work on getting better. Always enjoy skiing. And most importantly, be incredibly persistent and have an ability to handle pain, because Nordic racing at the highest levels is HARD. Diggins also explains in the book the extra part of the puzzle for her success: She has a high pain threshold and is willing to stay in a zone of pain longer than others.
Not Just Glitter & Gold
“Brave Enough” is also brutally honest and shows Diggins’ vulnerability. As anyone who has seen her bouncy, glitter-draped energy as she waits to take the baton in a race can tell you, she is super energized. She also has a drive for perfection and success, which unfortunately was part of the reason she developed an eating disorder. An eating disorder that got severe and was a herculean challenge to conquer. She tells how it came close to derailing her career, just as she was about to reach the highest echelons of the sport. Not only did she reveal in the book in excruciating detail how challenging her disorder was, but she did it in a way that I believe will help others facing similar challenges.
Looks like it was a good idea from me to switch from that 7-time Tour De France champion to Diggins when it comes to having a sports hero. If you like cross country skiing and a story of overcoming obstacles, read “Brave Enough.” You will not be disappointed.