SOCHI, RUSSIA – She has been thinking about this race for months, going over every possible scenario in her mind. Saturday, it will be time for Jessie Diggins to bring it to life.
Diggins, of Afton, will anchor the U.S. women’s cross-country team in the 4x5-kilometer relay at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Centre. The race, which begins at 4 a.m. Central time, is perhaps the best remaining hope for a cross-country medal for the American women, who are trying to climb upon the Olympic podium for the first time in history.
The U.S. women’s relay has won two bronze medals in World Cup competition in the past two seasons, both with Diggins as the anchor. Before last season, it never had medaled in a relay event on the World Cup circuit. She also anchored the team to a fourth-place finish at last year’s world championships.
“I am so excited for the relay,’’ Diggins said. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.
“I know there are some high hopes and big expectations coming into this. But all I can possibly give is everything I have, and I will go ski my heart out. I am so proud to be a part of this team. Whatever happens, I know we couldn’t have worked any harder to get where we are.’’
Diggins said she got a confidence boost from her eighth-place finish in the 15K skiathlon last Saturday in the first cross-country race of the Olympics. Defending Olympic champion Norway — which has won all 10 World Cup and world championship relays it has entered since the Vancouver Games — is the favorite.
Finland, the bronze medalist in Vancouver, and Sweden also are among the favorites.