When you're counting down the days to your second Olympic go-round, there's a lot to feel nervous and excited about about. But Olympic skier Jessie Diggins is just a little bummed to be missing the regular ski season. Instead of staying in Europe from November to March, as she tells Bustle she would on a non-Olympic year, Diggins is heading to PyeongChang, where she's expected to lead the U.S. Women's Cross-Country Ski team at the Winter 2018 Olympics, competing in solo and team events — her second Olympic go-round after competing at Sochi in 2014 at only 22 years old.
Diggins is also part of a different team: Team Unicorn, which mint and gum brand Ice Breakers announced in December 2017. Team Unicorn comprises of a group of Olympic athletes and hopefuls, who are all spreading the message of taking pride in your accomplishments. "I love that I was asked to be part of this because it's so fun to join these other professional athletes on a team that's about having confidence and believing in yourself," Diggins tells Bustle, "and chasing down your goals and looking for that next breakthrough moment." Diggins tells Bustle being part of the Team Unicorn campaign is about "not taking ourselves so seriously." The campaign is even more about fans than it is about Team Unicorn, she says, explaining that Ice Breakers is encouraging people to share their own personal accomplishments and the things that boost their confidence by using the hashtag #unicornmoment.
Diggins' own confidence in her skiing abilities started early. She says her parents took her out on the slopes even before she could walk, and by the time she was three, she was up on skis of her own. She joined the Minnesota Youth Ski League, where she learned essential skiing skills, but didn't get serious about the sport until high school, when she fell in love with the racing aspect of cross-country. She went on to become the first U.S. cross-country skier to win a world championship gold medal in 2013. She qualified for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and was one of the first to qualify for PyeongChang following bronze and silver medals in the 2017 world championship season.
As challenging as the on-season is for Diggins and her fellow cross-country skiers, the off-season is "grueling," Diggins says. She trains six days a week, twice a day, doing lots of "long, slow, steady cardio," including roller-skiing, which is done on road but emulates the movements of cross-country skiing and helps keep her core fit. Diggins says her teammates often get into biking and swimming, too. "Anything that works your entire body and gets your heart rate up there," she says.
But self-confidence is important even for fans who aren't looking to spend their days in a gym, Diggins adds. "Whether you're at school, or you're trying to play an instrument [...] or you're a coach, I think [self-confidence] is really important because you need to be your own best cheerleader," she says. "I think [self-confidence] is a really important message for our fans at home, especially our young fans who are getting into sports and maybe need a little self-confidence boost of their own," Diggins says.
As Diggins and her teammates head to PyeongChang, she hopes fans will be able to watch the Olympics and "maybe learn a little bit about cross-country skiing and give it a try," she says. "I think it's the best workout there is, and it's a dynamic, engaging sport. I'm excited for people to see it."
Other Team Unicorn members include Joss Christensen, Red Gerard, Devin Logan, Maggie Voisin, and Maia and Alex Shibutani. Catch them at the Olympics, which will be livestreamed by NBC, Feb. 8 through Feb. 25.