USA Wins First-Ever World Cup Mixed Team Relay In Falun
Keep it close, then tag off to Jessie Diggins. That was the plan, and Team USA executed it perfectly to take the victory Sunday in the first-ever FIS Cross Country World Cup mixed team relay in Falun, Sweden.
“It was fast and furious out there today, so our goal was to stay out of trouble and stay in the pack, then let Diggy do her thing, which she does best, and that worked out really well,” said Rosie Brennan, who skied the first of four 5k freestyle legs, tagging off to Zak Ketterson, then Scott Patterson and finally to Diggins, who skied away from Finland Krista Parmakoski and Norway’s Therese Johaug for the victory.
Sunday’s relay win was the first time the United States has stood atop a World Cup relay podium. The previous best was second, accomplished by Rosie Brennan, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell Hamilton, and Sadie Maubet Bjornson in 2019 in Lillehammer, Norway, and second in 2016 in Nova Mesto, Czech Republic, with Diggins, Caldwell Hamilton, Maubet Bjornson, and Liz Stephens in 2016.
“That was so, so fun,” Diggins said. “We had all the techs out there cheering, we put a lot of glitter on, and when you race for the team, and not just for yourself, it sometimes helps you pull out those very special performances. And for me, it has always been really special because you know that your team is always waiting for you at the finish line.”
Heading into Sunday’s race, the U.S. knew that it had a chance following Saturday’s outstanding performances in the freestyle individual start, including a podium from Diggins and career-best results from Patterson and Ketterson. So with a strategy of staying in the pack near the front of the race, they knew they had a podium shot.
“After Scott and Zak had great days yesterday, I felt that we definitely had a chance, but I was not expecting a victory like that,” Brennan said. “It was fast and tactical racing out there, and in the scramble leg, I wanted to stay near the front of the pack and stay out of trouble.
“I found myself further back in the pack than I wanted on the second (2.5k) lap, but also knew a fall or broken pole would cost us, so I tried to be patient, calm, and tag off in the pack,” Brennan added. “Zak, Scott, and I had the same strategy, and Scott made a great move to get ahead of a split in the pack to tag Jessie in a great place.”
Diggins moved into the lead at the 17.5k mark and used her exceptional downhill skills and fast skis to put some distance on Parmakoski and Johaug.
“I knew that those downhill working corners were one of my strengths, so I thought that I could make sure that I got to the top of that first big sprint climb first, then I could ski all the other downhills how I wanted and have a good shot at setting up a finishing sprint,” Diggins said.
As it turned out, the U.S. techs did such an outstanding job, Diggins didn’t need to pull out a sprint finish as she glided across the line more than three seconds ahead of Parmakoski for the victory.
“I can’t think of a more perfect way to end a really awesome year,” Diggins added.
The USA 2 team of Julia Kern, Logan Hanneman, Adam Martin, and Caitlin Patterson finished 14th. For the season, the USA finished fifth in the Nations Cup standings.