FALUN, Sweden (Feb. 24, 2015) – In heavy falling snow, Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) and Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis, MN) took advantage of fast skis to finish second and third at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 10K individual freestyle race. Gregg, wearing bib three, skied a balanced, even race to finish before a snowstorm set in on the rolling five-kilometer course. Diggins, a later starter, began the race evenly, and skied into the silver medal position with a gutsy final three kilometers. Charlotte Kalla, of host country Sweden, took the gold medal by a commanding forty seconds.
The result marks the best finish ever by the U.S. team at the World Championships.
Jessie Diggins (left) and Caitlin Gregg (right) finish second and third at Tuesday's World Championships at the 10k individual freestyle event. (Getty Images/AFP-Jonathan Nackstrand)
“We’ve never had U.S. girls podium at a distance event at the World Champs and to have two? It’s incredible,” Diggins said. “We talked at the team meeting last night and I said, ‘Why not me?’”
The race was among the least predictable events held this season on the World Cup circuit. Snow was forecast for start time but at the actual start, there were just tiny little flakes, which created little impact on the event. As the race went on however, the heavy snow moved in, hindering the later skiers. In addition, the favored Norwegians missed the wax, which meant all five had slow skis. Of the top 20 finishers, only the winner Kalla—also the Olympic gold medalist in the 10K freestyle at Sochi—was an odds-on favorite. The U.S. took advantage of great work from their service team to capitalize on the conditions.
Diggins and Gregg grin in the finish. (Getty Images-Matthias Hangst)
“This was a goal of mine since before the season, but I went out today believing anything was possible and I skied like I wanted to win a medal,” Gregg said of the effort. For Gregg, it was her first result inside the top 10 at the international level.
“The energy on the team has been really amazing all week,” Gregg continued. “Even if results weren’t what we wanted earlier in the week, we just have stayed positive and today we took advantage of that energy. I’ve known I could ski here because I’ve watched other women (on the team) do it. Today was my day.”
The U.S. packed all starters into the top 15: Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) finished 10th and Kikkan Randall posted her best distance results of the season in 15th place.
Diggins and Gregg have a history that draws back Diggins’ junior days in Minnesota. “We were at training camps from when I was a junior,” Diggins explained at the event press conference. “I’ve looked up to Caitlin for a long time and that makes this so incredible.”
Gregg responded on her teammate, “Jessie had just as much energy then as she does now.”
Jessie Diggins skates through snow to a silver medal. (Getty Images-Matthias Hangst)
Caitlin Gregg shows her aggression in the 10K Freestyle. (Getty Images-Mike Hewitt)
The team sprint didn’t go as well as I would have liked, so I left the start today with a lot of fire. I just wanted to go out today and ski hard.
It was hard to see anything and it was getting slower all the time. The climbs were getting soft. The coaches were running next to me going crazy so I knew that I was in it. I couldn’t be happier.
For us to have two on the podium? It’s incredible. Just incredible.
We were at training camps from when I was a junior. I’ve looked up to Caitlin for a long time and that makes this so incredible.
Caitlin Gregg hugs Jessie Diggins in the finish. (Getty Images-Matthias Hangst)
The energy on the team has been really amazing all week. Even if results weren’t what we wanted earlier in the week, we just have stayed positive and today we took advantage of that energy.
This is something that I’ve been dreaming about for a long time and for this to come true? It’s amazing.
This was a goal of mine since before the season, but I went out today believing anything was possible and I skied like I wanted to win a medal.