Early in Sunday’s 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit, Jessie Diggins decided to break away from the chase pack and try to close the gap on leader Marit Bjoergen. She didn’t catch the Norwegian superstar, but the cross-country skier from Afton did finish second — which lifted her to another American milestone.
Diggins’ silver medal in the World Cup season finale in Falun, Sweden, pushed her to second place in the overall standings. She finished only 40 points behind overall champion Heidi Weng of Norway. Diggins’ overall finish was the best for an American since 1982, when Bill Koch won the men’s title, and placed her alongside Kikkan Randall as the only U.S. women ever to finish in the top three in the World Cup cross-country overall standings.
Diggins started third in the pursuit, 43 seconds behind Bjoergen. She cut the margin to 16.7 seconds, with Bjoergen earning the victory and Sadie Bjornsen of the U.S. in third. Minneapolis native Rosie Frankowski finished 46th.
The silver medal moved Diggins up from third place to second in the overall standings.
“Today was a dream come true,” said Diggins, who also finished third in the season distance standings. “I knew I needed a good day to hold my position, but I didn’t know I would come within 40 points of the overall globe. What an awesome end to the year.”
Diggins stuck with the chase pack behind Bjoergen for the first three kilometers Sunday. She decided to take off by herself to try to catch Bjoergen and made up significant ground on the 15-time Olympic medalist.
“I actually love getting to just go hammer by myself, skiing the downhills exactly how I want to,” Diggins said. “I was happy to be out there looking for every second I could get.”
Sunday’s race was the last of Randall’s career. She teamed with Diggins to win the Olympic gold medal in the team sprint last month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the first-ever Olympic gold for the U.S. in cross-country skiing and the first Winter Games medal won by American women in the sport.
In the men’s race, Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, 21, became the youngest man to win the overall World Cup title. Klaebo, who won three Olympic gold medals in South Korea, finished only 25th in Sunday’s 15-kilometer freestyle pursuit, but that was enough for him to keep hold of the standings lead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.