Olympic champion skier Jessie Diggins said Wednesday she and a friend were nearly run over and killed by an angry motorist while dryland training over the weekend a few miles from her home in Afton.
Diggins said in a posting on her blog that she and her Stillwater High School coach, Kris Hansen, were roller-skiing single file Sunday morning and left plenty of room for any approaching vehicle when an SUV “buzzed us so close that I was rocked sideways from the wind.”
“He could have killed us,” Diggins said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “You can’t take it back, a moment of road rage.”
Diggins also said she understands why the driver hasn’t been charged, given that no police officer came to the scene, but “nothing but a verbal warning for almost hitting someone?”
What unfolded on westbound 15th Street S. roughly a third of the way into a 3¼-hour workout, the 27-year-old cross-country gold medalist wrote, was “the most incredible display of aggressive bullying and ‘I’m bigger than you and I’m in [an] SUV so I’m going to harass you’ that I’ve ever seen in person.”
Diggins said that after the SUV passed them, it stopped on the straight stretch of road with a hill ahead in the distance.
“We tried to ski by him, he kept driving on the right side of the road so that we were forced to the middle of the road,” she continued. “When we sped up, he sped up. When we slowed down, he came to a stop, blocking us from getting back to the side of the road.
“I knocked on the window a few times shouting that he was going to get us killed, and he flipped me the finger and turned the music up.”
Hansen said Wednesday that the man kept his window rolled up and didn’t say anything, and “just gave us that one good piece of sign language. ... The sheer maliciousness of the encounter is stunning and so unusual for Afton.”
Diggins said she wrote down the license plate number in the dirt as the SUV sped away, and she contacted law enforcement.
“If that guy had been 6 inches closer to us, we would be in the hospital or dead,” she wrote. “If a car had come over the top of the hill while he was pushing us to the middle of the road, we’d also be in the hospital or dead.”
A Washington County sheriff’s deputy reached Diggins by phone, she said, and “the officer let the man know how not OK it was — and it’s illegal to pass … without 3 feet of space in Minnesota. The officer assured me that the man had apologized.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Lonnie Van Klei said Wednesday that the encounter remains under investigation, and “at this point, there has not been a citation issued.”
A message was left with the motorist, 37-year-old George G. Frost, of St. Marys Point, seeking comment about the incident.
The public incident report filed by Deputy Jason Stafne said he went to Frost’s home, where the man’s wife said this “sounded out of his character.” Stafne left Frost a voicemail message and relayed Diggins’ concerns about the incident.
“I just want him to know that’s not acceptable,” Diggins said Wednesday, just back from surveying the scene to reinforce her belief that the driver had plenty of room to get by.
She ended her blog post on a positive note, recalling when on the same day “one person passed with their windows rolled down, cheering for us and waving. Another slowed down to shout ‘good job!!!’ as they went by. Everyone else passed with what felt like 5 feet of space, and I felt so safe in my hometown. Let’s keep it that way!”