My Olympic Moment – Crying Over Cross-Country Skiing

I cried this morning watching the Olympics.

And it was from cross-country skiing.

While the Olympics are still ongoing, I really can’t believe that there will be a better moment than the one that set off some waterworks on Wednesday morning.

Coming into these Winter Games, the United States had NEVER medaled in a women’s cross-country event.  It had been 32 years since any American, male or female, had won a medal in cross-country skiing.

That all changed on Wednesday (or maybe it was Thursday or Tuesday in PyeongChang, because it wasn’t being broadcast live on NBCSN this morning), when the U.S. duo of Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall ended an unbelievable team sprint race with this ending:

That moment didn’t make me cry.  I was elated, fired up, smiling from ear to ear (which is a pretty big accomplishment for me, especially in the morning… not a morning person AT ALL).  It was one of the most exciting races of any kind that I’d seen in a long time, and I was just as surprised as anyone that the United States actually brought home gold.

NBC knew exactly what they were doing this morning, and set the whole broadcast up in a remarkable manner.  Prior to airing this amazing final, they showed a video package focusing on Diggins.  The 26-year-old has been skiing her whole life, puts sparkles on her face before every race, and choreographed team dances for social media videos.

I know that’s not a great description of her, but honestly, she just seemed like a really nice, funny, normal person that just happens to be an elite athlete in a sport that no one notices outside of the Olympics.

Imagine training your whole life in a sport that doesn’t pay well, doesn’t have lucratic endorsement deals, and likely requires either some kind of financial assistance or working another job between workouts.  You have to dedicate your entire life, every single second of it, to the sport that you love, knowing that the chances of accomplishing your dreams are still miniscule at best.  Making the Olympics is a tremendous accomplishment, and having one moment encapsulate not only the previous four years of work but likely your entire life of practice and training has got to be packed with more pressure than any of us can even fathom.

As the race started, I was obviously rooting for the United States and my newest follow on Instagram (she seems cool so she deserved the follow).  It became clear pretty early on that there was a strong chance the USA was garnering a medal, because it was a three-team race with the rest of the field far behind.

The last of the six laps was absolutely enthralling.  The back-and-forth, the awesome commentating, and the fact that you could clearly see that these athletes were leaving it all out on the snow/ice made my heart race.  The final minute was gut-wrenching and super exciting.  I mean, who yells at their TV at 11am watching cross-country skiing?

That’s still not when I lost it.

The celebration, when Diggins hit the deck (or slope… or whatever that’s called… I don’t ski) and Randall embraced her, was pretty emotional, but I was still fine watching that.

It was the interview after the race that did it for me.

If you watched the whole video (I tried unsuccessfully to find it), you’ll see Diggins (on the left) try her hardest to keep it together and not completely break down.  She almost made it, and when she didn’t, I started tearing up too.

I’ve seen athletes cry before.  It happens quite often in big events, like championship games, and especially at the Olympics.  But this one was different.  You could see the sheer emotion and joy and disbelief that this just happened on her face.  And her belief in herself, that all the work and dedication and sacrifice would be worth it in the end.  It was all there as well.

I just learned a little about someone that I had never heard of before, then watched them win gold in one of the best races in any sport that I’ve seen, and now I’m fixated on her during this really good interview after a historic win… and it happened.

That was my Olympic moment.

It was the moment that I was proud to be an American, proud to see someone live out their dreams, proud to witness a part of history.

That moment made me cry.  And I’m damn proud of it.

Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)

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