The United States waited a long, long time to celebrate like this, and on Wednesday Olympians Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall made it happen, ending a 42-year medal drought in cross-country skiing.
The pair became the first American cross-country skiers to win a gold medal, capturing the women’s team sprint at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea, beating out the Swedes and Norwegians.
Diggins and Randall join Bill Koch among American cross-country skiers that have won Olympic medals. Koch took home the silver medal in the men’s 30-kilometer race in Innsbruck, Austria, back in 1976.
Diggins brought home the gold with a brilliant final sprint to the finish line. The American women finished with a winning time of 15 minutes, 56.47 seconds — just 0.19 seconds ahead of silver medalist Sweden.
The pairing of Diggins, 26, and Randall, 35, proved a winning combination. Diggins has won more world championship medals than any U.S. cross-country skier in history, and Randall is a veteran who returned the U.S. team to relevance after it had languished short of the medal podium for years.
They had previously teamed up in 2013, when they won the world championship in the team sprint event.
Diggins and Randall won the Group B heat with the fastest time of the semifinals: 16 minutes, 22.56 seconds, placing them 0.72 seconds ahead of Sweden. The finals race was even closer, but the Americans prevailed.
The finals was Diggins’ fifth race of these Olympics. She finished fifth in three events: the skiathlon, the 10-kilometer sprint and the 4×5-kilometer relay, results that were the highest Olympic finishes in history by an American woman. She also finished sixth in the classic sprint event.