In her latest blog post, Olympic cross-country skiing gold medalist Jessie Diggins describes her off-season and the support she gets from her stops — New York City, Austria etc. Everybody loves the Afton native.
Except for one knucklehead in Afton, apparently, who tried to kill her on Sunday morning, she writes.
A little national insight into Minnesota nice.
However, something happened this Sunday that really deeply upset me. I was out on a long ski with Kris Hansen, my high school coach and very close friend.
When we heard a car coming, we moved to the far right and were skiing single file. We were on a long straight section of road with a hill ahead, but it was obvious that a car could pass with plenty of room left over.
But the man driving the car buzzed us so close that I was rocked sideways from the wind. He slowed to a stop, then when 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.
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.
It was the most incredible display of aggressive bullying and “I’m bigger than you and I’m in a SUV so I’m going to harass you” that I’ve ever seen in person.
Kris was smart enough to have her phone on her, but as soon as she pulled it out to take a photo of the guy’s license plate, he sped up and took off.
I wrote the number in the dirt, and called the cops. They took down my information and then a police officer called me to follow up, and tracked the car’s license plate down.
The officer let the man know how not ok it was – and it’s illegal to pass a cyclist without 3 feet of space in Minnesota. The officer assured me that the man had apologized, and I appreciated that the police took my call seriously.
But … it made me feel sick inside. If that guy had been 6 inches closer to us, we would be in the hospital or dead.
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. I think sometimes aggressive drivers don’t realize that if they “just tap” a person on the road to “teach them a lesson”, they could become a murderer right then and there.
Of course, you don’t have to be an Olympic medalist to relate to Diggins’ assault. It happens all the time in Minnesota where guys in cars — it’s almost always guys in cars or trucks — try to take their shortcomings out on people who have a right to the road, too.
Diggins tells the Pioneer Press she’s not seeking retribution for the driver, which is too bad since he could use a heaping helping of it.
“We are safe, and that’s the main thing,” she told the paper. “My intentions were not for anybody to go after this guy. I’m not trying to ruin his life. I just want him to understand that it’s not OK.”
That’s something he probably knows. And he probably knew it when he did it to someone before. And he’ll know when he does it someone again.
“I’d say 99 percent of the time Afton is an awesome place to train,” she tells the Pioneer Press. “That same day after that happened, we had two cars drive by us and they were cheering and rolling down the windows and giving us a thumbs-up. It was very, very cool.
“I always feel very, very safe and welcomed whenever I’m training in my hometown, so I think that’s why this felt so shocking to me.”