When Olympian Jessie Diggins crossed the finish line in the cross-country women’s sprint sprint event, winning the gold and nabbing Team USA their first medal in the sport in 42 years (with teammate Kikkan Randall), she did so with the help of her secret weapon: glitter face paint.
It’s become a tradition for Team USA’s cross-country skiing team to paint their faces in red, white and blue ahead of a big race, with “USA” and stars scrawled on their cheeks. But Diggins’s own face paint has long had a special touch that she’s since passed onto her teammates — glitter.
“I started putting glitter on my cheeks a long time ago, back in high school,” Diggins said during an appearance on PEOPLE Now. “It was this little promise to myself. You know, I’m really nervous and I want to perform well, but I do this because it’s fun. I do this because I love it. So I put the glitter on and I’d put it on my teammates as well and it was like ‘alright, we’re going to go out there, and we’re going to do the best we can.’ ”
She started doing it during the World Cup competitions throughout the year, and it’s since caught on with the rest of the team. By the Olympics, she was applying the glitter to her teammates’s faces ahead of every race.
“Now I’m the team glitter fairy,” she says.
Her gold medal win was only one of Diggins’s pinch-me moments during the Olympics: She also was voted by her fellow athletes to carry the flag at the closing ceremony, a distinction she says was “humbling.”
“It was such an honor,” she says. “Every single athlete got a vote, and to have that many people that passionate about cross-country skiing, and that supportive, it was very humbling and really inspiring … It was such an honor to get to wave that flag and lead our team out of the games.”
But the flag-bearing duties weren’t always glamorous — Diggins admits that the flag was pretty heavy!
She says: “At one point I had it propped on my hip like ‘alright, got to keep this thing up there!’ “