Before Thursday’s freestyle sprint final at the Nordic world ski championships, American teammates Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall and Sophie Caldwell gathered for a group cheer.
“We had such a good energy between the three of us,’’ Randall said. “It was a really magical day.’’
And a successful one, too. Diggins, of Afton, won the silver medal, and Randall captured the bronze as the world championships began in Lahti, Finland. The 2-3 finish matched the best ever by U.S. skiers at the event, set in 2015 when Diggins took silver and Caitlin Gregg of Minneapolis won bronze in the 10-kilometer freestyle.
Diggins and Randall each earned the third world championships medals of their careers, more than any other American woman or man. The two teamed up to win the world championship in the team sprint in 2013.
“I was really excited today,’’ Diggins said in a post-race news conference. “I woke up feeling good, and I thought, ‘Why not?’ We’ve all trained so hard together, and I felt we had as good a shot as anyone.’’
Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway won the race, which opened 12 days of competition at the world championships in cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping. She covered the 1.4k distance in three minutes, 2.34 seconds. Diggins, who won her quarterfinal and semifinal heats in a strong day of skiing, moved into second place as she entered the home stretch of the six-athlete final and finished 1.66 seconds behind.
Since making her Olympic debut in 2014, Diggins has continued her path to the top of the U.S. women’s team. She is fifth in the women’s World Cup standings, the highest ranking of any American. This season, Diggins has won two gold medals on the World Cup circuit--both in the 5k freestyle—and finished fifth in the multi-stage Tour de Ski, equaling the best U.S. finish in the event’s history.
Cross-country racing at the world championships resumes Saturday with the skiathlon, in which Diggins will be among the favorites.
“I hope this inspires people back home,’’ Diggins said of Thursday’s medal. “If a girl from Minnesota who just loves to dance and wear sparkles and be silly can do it, they can, too.
“We’re not a country historically known for cross-country skiing. But we’ve created this women’s team together and worked so hard, and that teamwork really shows. We can be stronger together than we can as individuals.’’