Let’s do this again real soon…

I remember exactly where I was when Bill Koch won his medal.

The team was at practice on the trails behind the Livermore Falls shoe factory (where my grandmother worked) and we were doing intervals around the bog.  Coach Beedy and Coach Miller gave us the news.

For many of my teammates, Bill was a friend.  A few raced against him.  One raced with him on the World Cup.  We all knew his brother, Fritz.  And the success of a friend — especially for someone as nice as Bill — is something that’s hard to explain.

But it was the “community” aspect of Bill’s silver that was even more powerful.  Let’s face it, cross-country skiing in the USA is a fringe sport.  It’s not basketball, football or baseball.  It takes place outdoors in the dead of winter.  We have to explain it to our friends.  And Bill’s success elevated all of us.  Yes, we were still nordies, but we were “second place in the world” nordies, thank-you very much.

All of those same thoughts apply to last night.

I will always remember exactly where I was standing when Kikkan and Jessie won their gold medal.  Not only was I in the finish area to witness it first hand, but I was surrounded by friends who share this same passion and contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the evening’s success.  Grover, Matt Whitcomb, Cork, Robert Lazzaroni, Tom Kelley, Zuzanna, Tiger, Luke, Erik Flora, Eli, Simi, Sophie, Ida, Andy — it’s a long list.  There were a definitely a few missing, but I didn’t have to look too far to see a teary face to share the moment.

While I’ve known both athletes for a number of years, I consider Kikkan and her husband Jeff to be close friends.  They’re incredible people and there’s truly no one more deserving.  It speaks to the character of the person when no less than four Norwegians whispered before the race, “I hope Kikkan wins a medal tonight.”  The optimist in me firmly believes that Kikkan’s contributions to the sport over the last 20 years would have been recognized regardless, but having a gold medal in your pocket doesn’t hurt.  And I’ll add that there was more than one “I’m so happy for Jeff” in the media building at the end of the evening.

But more than anything else, I hope that there was a 15-year somewhere who heard the news at ski practice and felt the connection to the bigger skiing community.  Kikkan and Jessie didn’t just win a gold medal last night, they demonstrated — once and for all —  the potential of USA cross-country skiing on the global stage.

Let’s do this again real soon.

P.S. — A number of folks have messaged me — both publicly and privately about the success of the Kikkan and U.S. Ski Team sponsorships by L.L.Bean.  Thank-you.  For something that started out as “Steve’s Folly,” it seemed to have turned out all right.  And a huge shout out to Katie Gould Swenson and Eric Schenker (Craft) who didn’t hang up the phone four years ago…

Chris Grover — US Coach — with Jessie
On the podium.
It’s missing a few people, but I love this shot.
Matt Whitcomb – US Coach.  Long suffering Red Sox fan.
Erik Flora – APU & Kikkan’s longtime Coach
Finish line hijinks
A small part of Kikkan’s family.
Jessie at the finish.
JP — One of the USA’s wax techs
Jason Cork — Jessie’s long time coach
INCREDIBLY happy for this guy tonight.  Tom Kelley — the U.S. Ski Team’s longtime head of PR —  and Jessie Diggins.
Kikkan and Jessie
Kikkan’s husband Jeff and Frederico from NordicFocus

2 thoughts on “Let’s do this again real soon…

  1. CONGRATS!!!!! It was “meant” to happen – 5 years ago these women did it at the World Champ and now they did it again, at the OLYMPICS!!!!! Well deserved and worthy!!!!!
    The future looks bright – Ogden, Kern, Halvorsen, Swirbul…

  2. Great photos! This team, this win, is an inspiration to lots of kids. Guaranteed. It will carry them through long practices and tough races, and it’ll inspire the next generation as it fuels the current one. Good one! Well done!

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