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

By Char Adams
February 21, 2018 11:39 AM

Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall made history on Wednesday when they became the first American women to win Olympic gold medals in cross-country skiing. And if there’s one thing better than winning gold at an Olympic Games, it’s doing it with one of your closest friends.

Randall, 35, and 26-year-old Diggins embraced in tears and fell to the floor as they 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 by less than a fifth of a second.

“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, referring to Randall, told reporters afterward. “Just believing that we had what it took the entire day.”

Jessica Diggins (left) and Kikkan Randall
| Credit: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Here are five things to know about the gold medal-winning duo:

They Use Face Paint and Dancing to Get Pumped Up Before a Race

“As Americans we compete mostly in Europe, and we’re on the road most of the winter, we become a bit of a family. We find that the more fun we have together the more we challenge each other the better we all get so we really have a lot of fun together,” Randall told PEOPLE of herself, Diggins and teammate Sadie Bjornse prior to arriving in Pyeongchang.

When the skis are off, the women get each other ready for competition with Team USA face paint and choreographed pump-up dances, the trio says.

“We challenge each other and we look for ways to keep it fun. Jessie chases us down with glitter on race day, we come up with team dances and we’ve found that this great team dynamic really helps us excel individually,” Randall says.

Diggins even calls herself the “Team Glitter Fairy,” noting that, for several years, she’s used glitter to brighten the “intimidating” race days. “Glitter’s a way to be like, ‘You got this!’ ” she says.

Credit: CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Randall Has a 22-Month-Old Son — Making Her the Only Mom on Team USA

Randall and husband Jeff Ellis welcomed their son, Breck Stuart, in April 2016, and Randall said returning to the Olympics after the birth wasn’t easy.

“It was this team event, this race in particular, that really motivated me to go for one more Olympics, really pushed me through my comeback after having my son,” she said during an interview with TODAY after winning gold.

“It’s just so cool, I hope it gives a lot of inspiration to all the moms out there that you can come back to being active, and physical and stronger than you’ve ever been.”


The Girls Motivate Each Other, Even Though They’re in Fierce Competition

“It is an individual sport, and we are competitors against each other, but there is a very big team component,” Randall previously told PEOPLE.

Diggins echoed Randall’s statements to TODAY, telling Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb that the team event gave her “so much energy.”

“I’ve been in the best shape of my life these Olympics and the team events always bring out the best in me,” she said. “When you have someone that you care about so much, waiting for you at the finish, you’re never going to give up, ever. So those last 100 meters, I dug really, really deep,” Diggins said.

The Shocking Win is a Personal Best for Both Randall and Diggins

Randall, who is a five-time Olympian, had never placed higher at the Games than sixth — until now. Diggins, who previously competed at the 2014 Olympics, had also never cracked the top four until her gold-medal finish.

“It’s what I’ve been working on for 20 years and with this team for the last five years,” Randall said, “and, wow, it’s just so fun to put it together tonight, finally.”

Diggins added: “It feels unreal, I can’t believe it just happened 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.”

RELATED VIDEO: Olympian Kikkan Randall Shares How Her Toddler Son Took on World Champions

The PyeongChang Olympics Will Be Randall’s Last

Randall, who competed in her first Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah, plans to retire after the 2018 Games and focus on her family, according to NPR.

“My greatest wish for Breck is that he finds a passion like I found with skiing,” Randall previously told PEOPLE of her son.

“Something that gets you out the door every day, pushes you to work hard, challenge yourself through obstacles but ultimately accomplish and be successful and just have that great confidence.”

  • with reporting by ADAM CARLSON