Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins skied a gutsy race to take gold in the team sprint at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.
Echoing their World Cup win two months earlier in Quebec, Randall and Diggins dominated to win over Sweden by nearly eight seconds with Finland taking bronze.
It was the first ever World Champs gold for USA in cross country.
The U.S. Ski Team came to the stadium Sunday morning brimming with a cautious confidence. The strategy was to go out conservatively but stay in close contact. Randall and Diggins were dominant all day from qualifying first to setting the pace most of the race.
Russia set the early pace with Diggins challenging on her opening leg but Randall choosing to let the leaders set the pace. Diggins took control of the race on her second leg with Randall following suit.
In the third and final leg, Diggins was third behind Sweden and Finland as all three teams came to the line together. Randall accepted the exchange and took control of the race to win without challenge down the finishing stretch. Also during on the final leg, Diggins broke a pole while leading. Coach Erik Flora sprinted down the track to get her a replacement without her losing momentum.
“This is the most incredible day of my ski career so far,” said Randall. “We’ve been looking forward to this race all year. We’ve been talking about it and the whole team has been helping us get here. And today the wax was great, the skis were amazing, our coach got Jessie a pole, our teammates were here. It’s just what we imagined it would be.”
It was a first career World Championship for both Randall and Diggins. Randall took silver in the individual freestyle sprint in 2009.
“[Entering the stadium at the finish] was so incredible, just seeing that clean snow in front of me and crossing the line,” said Randall. “I tried to be stoic and stand up for a while but my legs were pretty dead. That moment when your teammate comes running out and it starts to sink in that you’re World Champions: it’s incredible.”
“We both knew that if everything came together just right and we skied really good we had the chance of a medal, but it’s sprint racing, things happen. Your poles come off,” said Diggins. “People step on your poles. It all came together anyways and that’s a really cool feeling to be able to share with our whole team.”
The team sprint was freestyle technique and will switch to classic for the Sochi Olympics while the individual event will switch from classic to skate.