Image from USSkiTeam.com
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) skied a gutsy race to take gold in the team sprint at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. It was the first ever World Champs gold for USA in cross country. The U.S. Ski Team came to the stadium Sunday morning brimming with a cautious confidence. The strategy was to go out conservatively but stay in close contact. Randall and Diggins were dominant all day from qualifying first to setting the pace most of the race. Russia set the early pace with Diggins challenging on her opening leg but Randall choosing to let the leaders set the pace. Diggins took control of the race on her second leg with Randall following suit. In the third and final leg, Diggins was third behind Sweden and Finland as all three teams came to the line together. Randall accepted the exchange and took control of the race to win without challenge down the finishing stretch. Also during on the final leg, Diggins broke a pole while leading. Coach Erik Flora sprinted down the track to get her a replacement without her losing momentum. It was a first career World Championship for both Randall and Diggins. Randall took silver in the individual freestyle sprint in 2009. The team sprint was freestyle technique and will switch to classic for the Sochi Olympics while the individual event will switch from classic to skate.
Video of the race – including the USA’s broken pole!