Diggins Second in Holmenkollen
Olympic champion Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) gained another level of global respect Sunday. Diggins commanded a spot in the lead group from start to finish in the Holmenkollen 30k freestyle race in Oslo, Norway to finish second behind Norwegian superstar Marit Bjoergen. It was the first time an American woman had taken a podium spot in a World Cup 30k race.
Diggins wasted no time, charging out of the start and battling with Finland’s Krista Parmakoski for the lead. By the 5k mark, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla joined the fray. At 10k, Diggins, Kalla and Norway’s Ragnhild Haga formed a lead group with Bjoergen and Astrid Jacobsen a few seconds back. At times in the latter stages of the race, the lead trio had put a 25-second gap on the chase.
“I was feeling great today, and I’ve been in the best shape of my life these last few weeks,” said Diggins. “So I decided that whatever else happened, I was going to have a gusty race and be brave enough to push the pace even if that meant skiing in the front and doing a lot of the work, because I knew that was my best shot. I took my chances and kept hammering ... I felt I was almost sprinting the whole 30k.”
Kalla and Wiggins took turns pulling the lead group with Haga sitting back. In the final five kilometers, Haga took over the lead as Bjoergen and Jacobsen were quickly closing the gap. Sensing the chase narrowing, Kalla took over the lead again, quickening the pace with Diggins right on her heels.
"It would have been smart to switch skis, but I was just focusing on going," Diggins said. "I was in front most of the time, so I did not know who was going to switch or not."
With just a kilometer to go, the two groups melded with Bjoergen vaulting to the lead and quickly putting a gap on Kalla and Diggins. In the sprint to the finish, Diggins charged ahead to take second with Haga barely nipping Kalla at the finish for third.
It was a strong day for the USA with four in the points. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) had a career-best 12th. In her final visit to Holmenkollen, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was 19th for a top career 30k skate (she was 12th at Holmenkollen in 2014 in a 30k classic). Caitlin Patterson (Anchorage) was 28th - a first-time long distance World Cup points finish. Rosie Frankowski (Minneapolis) just missed the points in 31st.
The World Cup tour now journeys to Sweden for the Finals in Falun next Friday, Saturday a, d Sunday. The schedule is very U.S.-centric with an opening freestyle sprint, a 15k/10k classic mass start and a 15k/10k freestyle pursuit Sunday to close the season.
Diggins remained third in the overall World Cup standings and is also third in distance. Heidi Weng retained the World Cup lead with Ingvild Jacobsen second, 107 points ahead of Diggins.