ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Jessie Diggins received a welcome worth its weight in gold as she helped call the Minnesota House session to order Thursday.
It’s the Afton, Minn., native's first time back in Minnesota since she and her teammate Kikkan Randall made history, becoming the first Americans to win Olympic gold in cross-country skiing. Now, she's already turning her attention toward the future of her beloved sport.
Representative Tony Jurgens, R- Cottage Grove, introduced legislation Thursday aimed at bringing an International Ski Federation Nordic World Ski Championship to Minnesota. The bill would ultimately direct the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission to support submitting a host bid.
“I’ve gotten the chance to race in about 150 world cups in my career,” Diggins said. “Not a single one has been in the United States—yet. So, we are trying to change that.”
World Cup ski races occur every season between November and March, attracting between 30,000 and 100,000 people. Last year, Diggins started the conversation about getting Theodore Wirth Park on the World Cup calendar for 2020.
“With the inspiration that Jessie provides we felt that this is kind of the next Super Bowl or Final Four for Minnesota and really shows off the brand of our state,” said John Munger, executive director of The Loppet Foundation.
The venture between the Loppet and U.S. Ski and Snowboard has about half of the $1.2 million needed. Thus far, legislation does not include taxpayer money.
While lawmakers work out the details, Diggins said her focus remains on inspiring the next generation of cross country skiers.
“She inspires people of all ages,” said Elizabeth Smith, parent coach from for Stillwater Nordic Ski Team. “I think from a youth program development perspective there is going to be a significant increase in numbers.”
The state would see nearly $5 million in projected economic impact from a World Cup event.
“I’m not retiring anytime soon, but I want this to happen so that before I end my career I have a chance to race in my home state,” Diggins said.