These Skiers Just Won America Its First Cross-Country Olympic Medal in 42 Years: 'It Feels Unreal'
Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall earned first-place spots on Wednesday in the women's cross-country team sprint free at the South Korean Winter Games
Before Wednesday, no American woman had ever won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.
Diggins and Randall earned first-place spots on Wednesday night (Wednesday morning stateside) in the women’s cross-country team sprint free at the South Korean Winter Games. The pair narrowly edged out second-place Sweden, who was trailed by Norway.
Diggins was the last of the pair skiing under the relay format and only pushed into the front in the final few feet of the 7.5-kilometer race. But the victory is perhaps more fitting for Randall, a five-time Olympian who plans to retire and who until this event had never placed higher at the Games than fifth.
Diggins, who previously competed at the 2014 Olympics, had also never cracked the top four until her gold-medal finish.
“In the final stretch I was just thinking, ‘Go, go, go, I’m giving it everything I had and I’ve got someone who I really love and care about waiting for me at the finishing line and I just want to make her proud,’ ” Diggins, 26, told reporters afterward. “Just believing that we had what it took the entire day.”
Their win is also the first medal for any American cross-country skier in more than 40 years, since 1976, as the sport has been dominated by Scandinavians.
“Hearing it out loud, it still doesn’t feel real,” said Randall, a 35-year-old mother of one.
“It’s what I’ve been working on for 20 years and with this team for the last five years,” she said, “and, wow, it’s just so fun to put it together tonight, finally.”
“It feels unreal, I can’t believe it just happened,” Diggins said, “but we’ve been feeling so good these entire Games and just having it happen at a team event means so much more to me than any individual medal ever would.”
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The first thing the skiers said to each other after eking out victory (by less than a fifth of a second)?
“I was, ‘Did we just win the Olympics?’ ” Diggins recalled. “And [Randall] was like, ‘Yeah.’ It was amazing.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.