Curling, luging, twizzling on the ice and twisting in the air four times were just a few of things I saw humans do that I never dreamed they could in the 2018 Winter Olympics. I was happy to discover when I arrived in a class I’m taking that I was not the only person feverishly searching the Internet for important details on whether ice dancers are in love in real life or how many bones Lindsay Vonn has broken on ski slopes in her career.
My favorite discovery was that you could take a quiz to determine “Who is your Winter Olympics crush?” But I don’t need that quiz because I already know which Olympian isn’t exactly my crush, but certainly someone just like me, only much more coordinated and accomplished in every way.
Jessie Diggins (of Minnesota, naturally) and her partner Kikkan Randall won a gold medal in women’s sprint Nordic skiing (a first!) in a big upset over the usual Nordic suspects Sweden and Norway. But it’s how Diggins won that I had to keep watching over and over.
First, here’s how it sounded when the play-by-play announcers went bonkers:
“They’re all completely gassed, they’ve given it everything on the klarbo-bakken!”
“HERE COMES DIGGINS! HERE COMES DIGGINS!”
“YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!”
It’s a mystery to me what the klarbo-bakken is, even after energetic research. But I do know that I watched Diggins throw more strength and energy than I can imagine ever having into the last stretch of the race. It was how she basically threw herself arms akimbo at the finish line that I loved. In the video you see her hurl her left ski desperately across the line for a shocking upset, just a few inches ahead of the Nordic goddess she had beaten. Then, of course, she collapsed in a heap.
This is my Olympic twin, I decided, because I have also hurled myself across a finish line, but not to such acclaim. I was just a third grader trying to win a footrace across the street I lived on, so determined to win that race against my neighbor that I also lunged crazily at the finish. Unfortunately, in my case, my feet tangled with hers and my mouth hit the curb full speed. This may be why all school photos of me from that year onward to 7th grade feature my hand covering my mouth. No gold medal for winning that race by inches.
Oddly, after being married for 20 years, I discovered that my husband had also won such a race as a kid—dashing with such fervor that he failed to realize he had run right into the fence at the edge of the playground. No dating app questionnaires needed for us – we were destined to marry any other fool we could find who could try so hard to win they would run clear past the finish line. It was kind of Forrest Gump-like for him – for me it was just an ugly crash.
So, with all the great memories of lightweight American teenagers flying on their snowboards and ordinary U.S. guys somehow pulling off a medal in curling, I’ll treasure finding my own Olympic twin in someone who actually knows how to excel in my favorite sport of Nordic skiing, without knocking out her teeth in the process.