A great day for US skiing, brought to you by Birkie & Kortie champions

I posted this on Facebook earlier, but not everyone who reads this is my friend on Facebook, so here it is on the Internet:

This video is amazing:

If you have five minutes, watch it. If you have an hour, watch the whole race (start at the 1:00:00 mark) as the announcers realize that Caitlin is in position for a podium and are utterly shocked by it.

I’m not.

Caitlin is a friggin’ rock star who, through various happenstance, has been on the outside looking in way more often than she should be. She skied at NMU because back in the early 2000s, that’s what you did: ski in college. (I vaguely remember watching her start a race in Ironwood and smoking the field.) Then she was told she should have been on a development team, and was too old to be supported. She was selected for the Olympics in 2010—I interviewed her on a sketchy Skype connection for the Loppet newsletter a few weeks after—but only at the last minute after she had skied fast enough that they couldn’t rightfully leave her off (again she was “too old”), and then had to pay her own way to World Champs. In 2011 she won the Birkie (note to November Project types: the temperature—not windchill, temperature—was -11. Can you say #‎weatherproof‬?) and 2013. In 2014 she was left of the Olympic team because of, among other things, internal politics, and she was too old, (although her husband got to go to Sochi). I asked her last year if she was considering another run at the Olympics in 2018 or hanging up the—well, not the spikes, bindings? let’s say bindings—and she was only a little non-committal: 37 is old even for skiers, but especially for US Ski Team selection. Good thing she kept after it.

Caitlin and Brian—Team Gregg—are also super-active in the community, working with the Loppet Nordic Foundation and hundreds of at-risk youth in Minneapolis. Caitlin rollerski trains on residential streets in Saint Louis Park (yup, I went out with her once, and it was not easy to keep up). After a swooping hill where I was trying not to crash she says “it’s nice, these hills remind me of the World Cup courses.” A suburban street west of Minneapolis. She represents the best there is of citizen athletes.

This year, she skied her way on to the World Championship team—even still, there were lingering questions about whether they’d take her. And today, she showed that she belonged on the track. This is no disrespect to anyone else on the team: Jessie Diggins had an amazing race (we expect greater things!), and all four American women were in the top 15. (Charlotte Kalla smoked everyone, of course.) Did the snow matter? Sure. But the skier makes the skis fast. For those of us watching Jessie win high school races in Minnesota, it’s especially cool to watch her perform at such an elite level. But for Caitlin, it is years of vindication: she more than belongs.

Yes, Charlotte Kalla will be above the fold in every newspaper in Sweden (and deservedly so). But guess who’s flanking her in every picture? Not Marit. Not Therese. Jessie and Caitlin. The day belongs to the American Women. And I hope we’re not done seeing great things from any of them.

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