Diggins Third in Ulricehamn Sprint; Extends World Cup Lead
Jessie Diggins took another massive step toward one of the biggest goals of her career - the overall FIS Cross Country World Cup title - after finishing third in Saturday’s freestyle sprint in Ulricehamn, Sweden.
For the ninth time this season, Diggins stood on the podium. But what is most impressive is that her podiums, and victories, have come in both sprint and distance events this season proving that she is indeed the best overall skier on the World Cup tour. However, none of her four victories, or podium results have come easy, and Saturday’s third-place finish was no exception.
The track at Ulricehamn was hard, fast, and with minimal climbing, the heats were more of a drag race with speeds so high it was challenging to pass. “That was a really cool day, because the course here is so challenging and tactical! You don’t really get any rest out there and it’s super hard to find windows to pass, so this challenged me to ski differently than I normally might,” Diggins said.
Six Davis U.S. Cross Country Team athletes qualified for the heats with Diggins posting the third-fastest qualifying time for the women. Sadie Maubet Bjornsen and Hannah Halvorsen qualified 16th and 22nd respectively. For the men, Simi Hamilton qualified 23rd, Kevin Bolger 24th, and Logan Hanneman 25th.
In the women’s opening quarterfinal heat, Halvorsen, unfortunately, broke a pole right off the start but rallied after receiving a pole from one of the Czech coaches to finish fifth in the heat. Going into next week’s U23 World Championships her form is coming around and she sees that as a positive improvement. “It was a great day, and a big improvement from last weekend,” she said.
Diggins set a fast pace in her quarterfinal heat, leading from start to finish to advance to the semifinals. Meanwhile, Maubet Bjornsen just missed advancing by a half-second, finishing third in her quarterfinal heat. Unfortunately, for the U.S. men, they were not able to advance past the opening quarterfinal heats.
In her semifinal heat, Diggins set the opening pace and kept her foot on the gas, which proved a worthy strategy as despite finishing fourth, she advanced to the finals as one of the two Lucky Losers.
“In my quarter and semi I had the tactic to lead right away since I knew I could pull the group to a fast time and have a much better chance of moving on with the Lucky Loser time added in there as a bonus,” Diggins said.
In the finals, Sweden’s Jonna Sundling - one of four Swedish athletes in the race, got tangled up at the start and broke a pole. That incident disrupted the pace and Diggins settled into the pack. However, with 500 meters to go, she took the inside line and move up to third, and powered her sprint to the line.
“In the final I knew leading would make me too tired to have a good finishing sprint,” Diggins reflected. “SoI tucked in early and just kept looking for any windows and was ready to jump through them when they opened up!”
Sweden’s Maja Dahjqvist took the victory - her first individual World Cup win - ahead of countrywomen Johanna Hagstroem at 0.30 second back, with Diggins in third at 0.39. Maubet Bjornsen finished 15th, and Halvorsen finished a World Cup career-best 22nd and was the fourth among U23 athletes.
Diggins extended her World Cup lead to 330 points (1,234) over Russia Yulia Stupak (904). Rosie Brennan remained third overall (879). Neither Stupak nor Brennan competed Saturday.
Up next, Sunday features a freestyle team sprint in Ulricehamn.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Sunday, Feb. 7
6:45 a.m. FIS Cross-Country Skiing World Cup Men's Team Sprint & Women's Team Sprint - LIVE, Ulriceham, SWE, Streaming Peacock