March 22, 2018

Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall Win USA's First Women's Cross-Country Medal

24 February 2018, 04:49 | Randolph Howard

US skiers Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall stun field for historic cross-country gold

United States Jessica Diggins left and Kikkan Randall celebrate after winning the gold medal in the women's team sprint freestyle cross-country skiing final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang South Korea Wednesday Feb. 21 2018. (AP

Diggins certainly didn't give up.

How the women finally overcame decades of disappointment is explained in Shinn's fascinating book, "World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women's Cross-Country Ski Team" (University Press of New England). She screamed, then ran over to Diggins to tackle her.

Diggins is 26-years-old and is from Afton, Minnesota.

"Kikkan has had a very strong impact across many sports as both a role model and a leader of athletes", said Olympian Tiger Shaw, who is president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

With just a few meters to the finish, Diggins out sprints Nilsson, earning gold by two tenths of a second. She competed in the 2014 Sochi Games in the 15 kilometer skiathlon, finishing 8th.

"I got to see in 2013 when we won the world championships ... that team gold is worth far more than any individual accolade", the 35-year-old Randall said.

"It was this team event, this race in particular, that really motivated me to go for one more Olympics", she told TODAY once the euphoria had died down, if only a little. To many fans and participants of the sport, it was a long time coming.

The American team of Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall posted the fastest time in the semi-finals to start on the front row in the finals Wednesday. She entered the field as a massive underdog and came out of it an Olympic champion skier. "They were unbelievable today". At the first speed marker, she was 0.03 seconds back of Veith.

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Terho received the most amount of votes with 1,045 and 831 athletes voted for Randall during an election held at the Winter Olympic Games here.

"Those girls are thrilled", Hansen said. "I'm really happy for them, and I also think that it's important for our sport too that they are there".

Sofia Goggia refused to let Lindsey Vonn catch her.

As play-by-play announcer Steve Schlanger excitedly called the action, Salmela kept yelling, "Yes!" and then "Gold!" when the US team won by 0.19 seconds. They are part of a US team that has gone from participant to powerhouse during Randall's reign - Bjornsen is ranked seventh in the world and Vermont's Sophie Caldwell is ranked 17th - and they mean it when they post on social media that they are #bettertogether. Norway won bronze, nearly 3 seconds back.

The results mean the US will continue to have three voting members among the 100-member International Olympic Committee after current Athletes' Commission Chair Angela Ruggiero's term expires Sunday.

But as the events came and went, no medals were won. The athletes were not hyped up to be gold medal favorites, like household names Shaun White and Mikaela Shiffrin. In fact, they better!

The Americans won their semifinal heat to reach the final. "I just wanted to lay down the absolute race of my life to make it possible and you always want to walk away with the best feelings and knowing that you laid it all out there and we did that and its the coolest feeling ever".

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