Her sport is all about moving forward as fast as you can. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Jessie Diggins isn't living in the reflected glory of her Olympic gold medal.
The Afton native said she never looks at the medal she won in cross-country skiing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. She stashed it in the basement of her parents' home, where it sits with other mementos. It wasn't on her mind last summer, as Diggins prepared for a new World Cup season and the 2022 Beijing Olympics, or this week, when she put in some final work toward Friday's season opener in Ruka, Finland.
"I try not to ride on the successes of the past,'' Diggins said. "I am proud of them, because it reflects a lot of hard work from a lot of different people. But I have to prove myself this year.''
Diggins is wearing several crowns as she begins the World Cup season with three days of racing in Ruka. She is the defending World Cup overall champion and distance champion, the first American woman to win those titles. Last winter, she also became the first U.S. athlete to win the multistage Tour de Ski, one of the circuit's premier events.
There's also that historic Olympic gold. Diggins will always be known for her dramatic finish in the team sprint at the Pyeongchang Games, when she and Kikkan Randall captured America's first Winter Games gold in cross-country skiing.
Each of those achievements checked a box on her list of lifelong goals. But with a third Olympics in her sights, Diggins doesn't find it productive to dwell on any of it.
"Every single year, I feel like I get a chance to prove to myself that I'm working hard and earning my place,'' said Diggins, 30. "I haven't qualified for the [Beijing] Olympics. None of us have.
"I think it's kind of cool that it doesn't matter where you've come from or what you've done. You have to earn your place on the team. I love that about our sport. Nobody gets a free pass.''
In her 11th season on the U.S. cross-country team, Diggins is expected to lead a young roster at the Beijing Games, which begin Feb. 4. The Olympic team will include about 14 athletes, a slightly smaller group than in the past. The roster will be determined by performances on the World Cup circuit and will be announced in mid-January.
Diggins spent the summer training at her home base in Vermont, as well as at team camps in Germany and Utah. As always, she will enter the season with a carefully calibrated plan.
Her objective isn't to win medals in this weekend's races, which include a classic sprint, classic 10K and 10K freestyle pursuit. Her World Cup events will be geared primarily toward helping her peak for a busy schedule at the Olympics.
"If I'm in good form, I think you'll see me taking a lot of big swings in a lot of different races,'' Diggins said of the Beijing Games, which include six women's events. "This year, the focus is mostly on the Olympics, so you'll see me really working into the season.
"That's not to say you won't see a good performance [early on], but most likely not. You're going to see me being patient and then slowly working up to one large peak.''
That isn't any different from her usual strategy. As she has in past Olympic years, Diggins will race the grueling Tour de Ski, which she views as a great fitness-builder for the Games. She also will rely on her teammates to keep the atmosphere light and fun during a season in which she will shoulder big expectations.
Recently, Diggins participated in her first TikTok dance video, an idea hatched by teammate Hailey Swirbul. She said the team's young athletes inspire her with their work ethic, team spirit and joyfulness, while U.S. coach Matt Whitcomb noted the entire group benefits from Diggins' selflessness.
"She likes to share her successes,'' Whitcomb said. "Jessie could win 15 Olympic medals by herself, and she wouldn't enjoy it. She enjoys it because of the team that surrounds her.''
Since the 2018 Olympics, Diggins has written an autobiography and continued her work to combat eating disorders and climate change. Last summer, she also spent time gardening, baking and planning her wedding, set for next summer.
The training still came first. When she wrapped up the most successful season of her career last spring, Diggins didn't spend a lot of time celebrating.
She couldn't wait to sit down with her coach and sports psychologist to discuss how to keep improving. In her mind, the only way to follow up a dream year is to keep moving forward as fast as she can.
"That's what's so cool and motivating,'' Diggins said. "There's always something I'm looking forward to, something to chase and work on. It's exciting to think about going after a new season with a lot of big goals.''