They were not the favorites to make some splash in cross-country skiing at the PyeongChang Olympics, but the US women’s pair of Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall did what no American team has done in the past 41 years—go home with the gold medal.
The last time the US team managed to do it was back in 1976 courtesy of Bill Koch.
That kind of history takes a toll on your confidence, and even Diggins believed that Sweden and Norway teams will be a lock on the gold and silver. Not when she was at the peak of the hill did she decide that she would not settle for anything than gold.
She was still in third place by then but she was zooming fast. When she turned the final corner, she’s right on the tail of Sweden’s Stina Nilsson.
“Around that final corner I felt like I was uncoiling a spring and letting it go,” she said. “Giving it everything I had, digging as deep as I could and putting it all out there.”
She crossed the line and all the adrenaline just went out of her and she collapsed on the snow. Randall wrestled her and they were both bawling.
Randall, a five-time Olympian, said that the whole thing was surreal. But she looks back on all her hard work for the past 20 years and they were all worth it. “It’s just so fun to put it together tonight, finally,” she added.
Diggins actually had more to lose because she was extremely unlucky in PyeongChang heading into her golden moment. She only managed to finish at the top six in four Olympics events. She also finished fourth in the 10-Km freestyle last week. But far from being depressed, the losses only made her more determined.
“Our whole team had that belief we could win and everyone was there screaming,” she said.