Two-time Olympian Jessie Diggins kicked off the seven-stage Tour de Ski cross-country skiing event with a third-place finish in the women’s 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint on Sunday in Toblach, Italy.
Diggins, who won a historic Olympic team sprint gold medal 10 months ago, finished in 2:39.33, just .07 seconds behind Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter in second place. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, the defending Olympic champ, won in 2:36.26.
Last season Diggins became the first American to reach the overall podium in the Tour de Ski, one of the most highly regarded events in the sport, when she took third overall, and on Saturday the 27-year-old Minnesotan made it clear from the very beginning that she’s after more hardware.
The race started with the quarterfinals, and Americans Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell all qualified for the 12-person women’s semifinals, with Diggins and Bjornsen coming in first and second in their heat and Caldwell leading the way in hers.
It was a photo finish between Diggins and Bjornsen for second and third place in the first semifinal. Nilsson finished first in 2:36.23, followed by Diggins in 2:36.51 and Bjornsen in 2:36.52. Caldwell was fifth in the heat with a time of 2:36.88 and did not qualify for the six-person final.
Bjornsen, who finished ninth overall in the 2017-18 Tour de Ski, came in sixth in Saturday’s sprint final. Two U.S. men, Simi Hamilton and Kevin Bolger, were eliminated in the quarterfinal round.
The 13th Tour de Ski will feature seven stages over nine days and continues on Sunday with a 10-kilometer freestyle for the women and 15-kilometer freestyle for the men. The event will then move to Val Mustair, Switzerland, and Oberstdorf, Germany, before returning to Italy for the final stage on Jan. 6.