The last few seconds are brutal. They are supposed to be. No matter how much or how hard Jessie Diggins trains, she never expects to feel good when she pushes toward her absolute limit at the end of a race. Sometimes she squeezes so much out of her body that her vision tints—“everything starts to look a little bit pink or yellow, even though I’m not wearing colored glasses”—and sometimes her legs feel numb. By the time she crosses the finish line, she says, “I’m definitely, like, close to blacking out.”

That feeling explains, as much as anything, why Diggins made history in PyeongChang with her thrilling, come-from-behind photo finish, winning (with now retired Kikkan Randall) the team sprint freestyle race to earn the U.S.’s first gold medal in women’s cross-country skiing since the Winter Games started in 1924. It explains why she can win more medals in Beijing. It even explains why she will be O.K. if she doesn’t medal at all. Read More