Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the team sprint to give the United States its first-ever Olympic gold medal in cross country skiing.
“It’s a dream come true,” Randall said. “I got to see in 2013 when we won the World Championships that a team gold is worth far more than any individual accolade. What really kept me going over the last four year was trying to contribute towards a team medal here, and to do it here and get to go with Jessie one more time, it’s amazing.”
“This team brings out the absolute best in me and we had so many people working so hard to give us this opportunity,” Diggins said. “Kikkan and I both knew our jobs, and we both did them well today. That feeling of being able to cross the line and have Kikkan tackle me was the coolest thing ever.”
In the chaos of the finish, Diggins laughed when admitting she had to ask Kikkan what had just happened. Kikkan told her they had won!
Team USA easily advanced through the early rounds, and after winning the semifinal, Randall and Diggins only seemed to get faster.
“I actually felt better every round today,” Randall said. “I felt strong in the semifinal, I was actually trying to conserve some energy, so in the final, I felt strong and stronger.”
Coming into the finals, both knew they had a job to do, and were determined to not only win a medal but win the race outright.
“Being so close to the medals this week so many times this week, I knew I was in good shape and I knew it could happen,” Diggins said. “I just felt unstoppable. I’m in the best shape of my life.
“A medal is not enough anymore, I wanted to win this stuff,” Diggins added. “I’m going to give this absolutely everything I can and play a tactical, smart race and see how it pans out. At that point, you’ve got nothing to lose.”
In the six-lap final, Randall set the early pace with Team Norway and Team Olympic Athletes from Russia right with her, tagging off to Diggins in fourth position, who then moved into third on the second exchange.
“Lap one I was skiing a little more conservative … so lap two I really started pushing the pace and trying to tire out some of the more pure sprinters,” said Diggins, who set a blistering pace matched only by Norway and Sweden. Following the final exchange, Diggins pushed the pace even further before playing a supreme tactical game down the stretch.
“Then on lap three I just went for it, and then purposely hung back a little bit because I wanted to come into the downhill third to be able to get the draft and get a slingshot into a really good position,” added Diggins, who out-sprinted Sweden’s Stina Nilsson for the gold by 0.19 seconds. “Then around that final corner, I felt kind of like I was coiling a spring and letting it go, giving it everything that I had and digging as deep as I could and leaving it all out there.”
In the men’s team sprint, Team USA of Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton finished sixth, the best Olympic result ever for the United States in men’s cross country skiing.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished,” Hamilton said. “Obviously it’s always our goal to be on the podium. We both know that we can be up there and maybe someday we will.”