Hailey Swirbul reacts during the women's cross-country 4x5-kilometer relay during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — When 2018 Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall saw the lineup for the U.S. women’s 4x5-kilometer relay team at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing, she was excited. The relay was “wide open,” she messaged from Connecticut where she is calling the cross-country races for NBC.
With Hailey Swirbul and Rosie Brennan skiing the first two classic legs of the relay at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre, and Novie McCabe and Jessie Diggins taking the two freestyle legs, Randall knew that Team USA could win its first Olympic relay medal.
Diggins is a two-time Olympic medalist. Brennan led the overall world cup rankings for several weeks last year and scored wins. And McCabe and Swirbul — both first-time Olympians — have both won junior world championship medals in the relay.
These four women donned the U.S.’s trademark striped socks — that the team debuted 10 years ago today — put glitter on their cheeks and headed out to the course. Halfway around the world, even Randall was wearing her old striped relay socks.
Unfortunately, the U.S. women could not quite match up to Randall’s prediction. Diggins anchored the team to sixth place — just over a minute from a medal.
Still, the four women were smiling after the race.
“We gave it everything we had,” said Diggins. “Some days, that ends up in the results of your life, and some days it doesn't. But either way, all you can control is going out there as hard and as smart as you can, and this team did that.”