Diggins Wins Bronze On Historic Night For U.S. Cross Country
It was a historic night at the Kuyangshu Nordic Center, Zhangjiakou, China, as Jessie Diggins won the bronze medal in the freestyle sprint, and led seven Americans into the top 25, including Rosie Brennan in fourth.
“I am so grateful and thankful for our team,” said Diggins, who won the first U.S. women’s individual Olympic medal. “We had amazing skis, and we have had so much support … and then we had seven people make the heats - that’s amazing!”
Ben Ogden took an interesting route to post the best-ever U.S. men’s sprint result in 12th, JC Schoonmaker was 15th, Julia Kern 18th, Kevin Bolger 17th, and Luke Jager 25th. Sweden’s Jonna Sundling took the gold, which countrywomen Maja Dahlqvist won the silver. Norway’s Johannes Klaebo took the gold on the men's side, with Italy’s Federico Pellegrino winning the silver and the Russian Olympic Committee’s Alexander Terentev taking the bronze.
Team USA advanced three women and four men into the heats Tuesday night. Brennan set the fastest afternoon qualifying time for the Americans, opening the evening heats in remarkable fashion by coming back from a missed pole plant at the start of the first heat that resulted in a slight fall to finish second.
“I certainly made that interesting,” Brennan said after finishing her quarterfinal heat, adding that it was one of the hardest races she had ever done.
Diggins easily won the fourth quarterfinal heat, while Kern finished fourth in the fifth heat.
In the opening men’s quarterfinal heat, which proved one of the fastest, Ogden finished fourth but sat as the second lucky loser based on time through the fourth heat when China’s Qiang Wang knocked him out. However, Wang was disqualified following the fifth and final quarterfinal heat due to obstruction, so Ogden, who had already removed his bib and timing chips, scrambled to get back to the start to prepare for the semifinals.
Racing in the first semifinals, Ogden skied the best race of his life so far. Despite finishing sixth, he was in the mix throughout the race, finishing just 1.24 seconds back from race winner Klaebo.
In the women’s semifinals, Diggins finished second to advance to the finals, while Brennan was fourth but advanced to the finals as one of two Lucky Losers - a historic first for the U.S. women with two in the finals. Sundling opened a slight advantage at the halfway point in the finals and held it to the finish. Meanwhile, Diggins rallied from fourth position coming into the final 300 meters, and Brennan rallied from fifth.
When Diggins crossed the line, she had no idea she had won the bronze medal. “I didn’t believe it,” she said. “I had to look up a few times on the (score)board, and I was scared to celebrate early in case it wasn’t true.” She finally realized she had won another Olympic medal when she looked over and saw her teammates and Team USA staff celebrating.
Up next, the women compete in the 10k classic on Thursday, and the men race the 15k classic Friday.