Homecoming

Last weekend I experienced one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed in my life. Minneapolis, MN hosted the FIS Nordic Ski World Cup. The first time the United States has hosted a World Cup in 23 years. The last time Minnesota hosted the World Cup was almost 40 years ago, in 1985, on my home course in Northern Minnesota.

To put it mildly, there was significant pent-up demand for Minnesota ski fans to see the fastest Nordic skiers in the world with their own eyes, standing trailside. Over 20,000 fans lined the course each of the two days, creating a wall of sound, where athletes couldn’t judge their effort because they couldn’t hear themselves breathing.

20,000 Fans from around the World, but mostly Minnesota

It doesn’t hurt that the fastest woman in the world is Minneapolis’ own Jessie Diggins. Jessie, the 2024 World Cup Tour overall leader and 2018 Olympic Gold Medalist (“Here Comes Diggins” if you watched in NBC) hadn’t raced in Minnesota in 13 years.

Jessie is a hard-working, charismatic leader who helped change the culture of the U.S. Ski Team, lifting it to its current standing of third in the world. She is a product of the Minnesota high school skiing system that has produced a ton of Olympians, but also a large majority of the Nordic ski fans in Minnesota. Generations of high school Nordic skiers showed up in Minneapolis to watch Jessie Diggins and the rest of the U.S. Ski Team make history.

Jessie delivered with a Bronze and a 4th place finish, but the pandemonium that broke out with the surprise win of 23-year-old Alaskan Gus Schumacher was something to behold. Gus was a World Junior Champion several years ago and struggled to find his form against the big boys, but Minneapolis was his coming out party. He beat the best skier of all time, Johannes Klaebo, who wins 50% of World Cup races he enters. It was a true David and Goliath moment no one there that day will forget.

Gus Schmucher hoist by Rosie Brennen, Julia Kern, and Jessie Diggins (L to R).

For me, this was a coming home of sorts. The exposure I got to the World’s best Nordic skiers on my home course in 1985 as a 16 year old set me on my life path. I tried to race at that level for many years, moving to coaching when I realized that dream was just a dream I wasn’t capable of realizing. Coaching brought me around the world to many World Cups, World Championships, and Olympic Games. My teams delivered many historic results over my 12 year career. It was awesome. I put all of myself into it. I burnt out. I reinvented myself. I started a couple businesses. Had kids. Lived life. Locked that winter circus part of life away, never to return.

The old adage goes, you can never go home again. After my experience last weekend, I agree. But, I also don’t. You can’t go back in the same way, thank goodness, but you can at least visit and relive the magic for a few hours. You can embrace the folks who helped form you and who you helped form. You can catch-up, reminisce, remember, and recall those days of old. You can stand there in the stands with tears in your eyes watching a young American receive the Gold, and know how all the puzzle pieces came together over the last 40 years to make this moment happen. How all those you embraced during this brief homecoming contributed in ways large and small to this result on this day.

No, you can’t go home again. But you can always visit. And see the place that made you with brand new eyes.

Jessie Diggins celebrating her homecoming with her team.

– Cory Salmela

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Ciera is a born-and-raised Duluthian who recently graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh. When she isn’t designing the Salmela website or sending emails, she doubles as an actress! With over 15 years of acting experience, Ciera brings her creative artistry and understanding of people to her work at Salmela.

Madison is a marketing maven with a mastery of magnificent messaging. She brightens every room with her positive attitude and joins Salmela to explore the digital corners on every search. If you’re having a first conversation with one of us, Madison is probably the reason why!

Ryan is an Emmy-award winning news producer with a strong history in the performing arts. Funny and outgoing, he’ll meet you with a journalist’s curiosity and actor’s joie de vivre.

Meghan brings her previous advertising agency experience to Salmela. She is a natural-born conversationalist and delights in every interaction with candidates and clients alike. Meghan can find something in common or a shared interest with just about anyone. (No really, it’s AMAZING.) She is also a foodie, loves cooking, and is always looking for the next opportunity to try an adventurous recipe.

Kate joins Salmela after a decade of non-profit arts leadership, where she shared her passion for building community, education, inclusiveness, and arts access. Her superpower is helping professionals identify their strengths and set them on a course for greater success. After work, she can be found reading Shakespeare, doing yoga, or prepping the next generation of theatre stars for college.

Cory spends his day advising senior leaders on talent acquisition strategy. He is happiest on his bike, skis, or helping his daughters rehearse lines. He began his career as a National Team Coach for the U.S. Ski Biathlon Team, followed by experience in pharma sales. In 2005, he founded Salmela. Today, Salmela places leaders across the healthcare industry. Salmela is the go-to vendor across marcomm disciplines in healthcare and beyond.

Chief Financial Officer, Olympian, and Health Coach, what can’t she do? When Kara is not managing the Salmela Financials, she spends her days educating and supporting people as a health coach. If that wasn’t cool enough, she also competed as an American biathlete at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

Megan focuses on individual career wellness and team development for the healthcare advertising industry. As a natural networker, and with a career background in health/wellness and international corporate project management, Megan has the experience necessary to understand your needs. She enjoys being outside with her family, volunteering in the community, trail running and practicing yoga.

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