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Young skiers ready for snow after meeting Olympians

Diggins, Hamilton and Caldwell meet fans, answer questions while training in Lake Placid

From left, US National Ski Team Olympians Simi Hamilton, Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins speak to a large crowd at High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid on Sunday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

LAKE PLACID — This village has more than its share of Olympians, but a trio with seven Olympic Games under their belts has local Nordic skiers pumped to see some snow.

Gold medalist Jessie Diggins, two-time Olympian Sophie Caldwell and three-time Olympian Simi Hamilton visited High Peaks Cyclery on Sunday, to the thrill of kids and adults. People traveled from out of state to meet the three U.S. Ski Team members.

After about a half-hour of taking questions and giving advice, Hamilton and Caldwell — who married each other last weekend — and Diggins signed autographs and got more than a dozen members of the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid high school cross-country ski teams excited for winter.

“The other day, I saw Jessie Diggins skiing by my house,” said Lake Placid and New York Ski Education Foundation skier Marli Damp of Lake Placid. “I think it’s really cool that these U.S. Ski Team members take the time to come talk to the community; it shows a lot about their character.”

The three Olympians are training in Lake Placid.

Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins smiles at teammate Sophie Caldwell during a question and answer session in Lake Placid on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, how excited she is for ski season after meeting the Olympians, Damp said her enthusiasm is off the charts.

“I’m at an 11. Hearing their stories, and that they get nervous for races, too — training is just as hard for them as it is for people like us. It’s really motivating,” the Lake Placid High Schooler continued. “They came from somewhere; they came from where we are. It’s really cool.”

Saranac Lake High School freshman Bella Wissler, who skis for the school team and has been training in biathlon, also said she was motivated by the encounters.

“Jessie is genuinely a great person; she cares about everyone she meets,” Wissler said. “I think she wants everybody to be successful, and she’s very humble about her own success.

“It makes me want it to start snowing outside. I always see them out training, and I’m like, ‘There goes Sophie,’ or, ‘There goes Jessie,’ and now, I want to become them. I want kids, when they’re my age, to say, ‘There goes Bella.'”

U.S. Ski Team member and three-time Olympian Simi Hamilton smiles during a meet and greet event at High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid on Sunday. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Diggins gained fame during the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea — her second Olympics — when she and Kikkan Randall combined for gold medals in the women’s team sprint. It was the first ever gold for the U.S. women’s cross-country team.

Caldwell, who hails from Vermont, has competed in the last two Olympics, while Hamilton has gone to the past three.

U.S. Ski Team member Sophie Caldwell answers a question at High Peaks Cyclery on Sunday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)