SOCHI, RUSSIA -- Moments after attending Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, Jessie Diggins could not stop raving about the experience. “It was such a rush,’’ she said. “I can’t keep the smile off my face. I feel so much pride for the USA.’’
The cross-country skier from Afton will get a chance to do one better on Saturday, when she competes in the first Olympic event of her young career. Diggins, 22, will race in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon, in which skiers race 7.5k in the classic technique and 7.5K in the freestyle technique. One of four Americans in the event, Diggins is seeded 15th in the 61-athlete field that will race at the Laura Cross-Country Skiing and Biathlon Centre in the Krasnaya Polyana mountain region. The race is scheduled for 4 a.m. Twin Cities time.
(Update: Diggins finished eighth in the race.)
Diggins had gotten into the Winter Games spirit even before Friday’s ceremony. Earlier in the week, she dyed her blonde hair pink and blue. Saturday, she also will be wearing her customary face paint and glitter.
“This has been such an incredible experience, I don’t think I’ve blinked the entire time,’’ she said of her first few days in Sochi. “I’m thrilled to be in my first Olympics.
“My body feels strong and healthy and fit. I’m right where I want to be going into this. I feel like I’ve prepared as best as I possibly can.’’
Diggins is seeded second among the Americans behind teammate Liz Stephen. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, the defending world champion and Olympic gold medalist in the event, is seeded second overall. The top seed is Therese Johaug of Norway, the World Cup overall leader.
The skiathlon will likely be the first of several World Cup events for Diggins. She is expected to race again Tuesday in the women’s freestyle sprint, and her best hope for a medal is likely to be the women’s 4x5k relay on Feb. 15.
Rachel Blount • 612-673-4389