Amid one of the better Winter Olympic Games in recent memory, one of the Games' longest standing streaks came to fitting close in PyeongChang with the U.S. Women's Nordic Ski Team skating its way to its first ever medal, a last-gasp gold in the women's sprint relay. It was a completely fitting narrative, with Kikkan Randall, the woman who has put U.S. Nordic skiing on her back for so many years hanging close, and her mentee, Jessie Diggins, out-stretching the world champion Swedish sprinter to write history in gold.
For me, it was a gold medal three decades and two generations in the making. My mom raced for the U.S. Ski Team for over a decade, competing in the 1980 and 1988 Winter Games. She was part of a strong wave of amateurs, a group that included Randall's aunt Betsy Haynes and my uncle Dan Simoneau in an era dominated by Scandinavian pedigree and Russian blood-doping. In other words, they didn't stand a chance. Still, they consistently pushed into realms never before touched by U.S. skiers—World Cups, relay podiums, individual top-10s—all in the hopes that one day all of that hard work would lead to this.
Randall is the tail end of the competitive generation after my mom, Diggins, the beginning of something new. To see how far this sport has come in the States since my mom, then a skinny 20-year-old from Maine named Leslie Bancroft, hit the track in Lake Placid is a pretty amazing thing. I never thought I'd see the day where I would get emotional about cross country skiing (aren't there, like, more fun ways to ski?), I have to admit that Randall and Diggins messed me up in the best way last week. Thank you, ladies. That was something special.