Jessie Diggins competes during the women's cross-country team sprint classic during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 16, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Jessie Diggins came to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 knowing that she had nothing to defend.
Sure, she and Kikkan Randall had won the cross-country team sprint at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games — the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in cross-country skiing and the first medal of any kind for the women.
But every cross-country race is different, with disciplines changing from Olympiad to Olympiad. The team sprint was a freestyle event at the 2018 Winter Games; it was a classic event at the 2022 Games. Diggins is a stronger freestyle skier. It would be like Michael Phelps swimming the 200-meter butterfly at one Summer Games, then having to swim the 200 breaststroke in the next.
“I’m not trying to compare today to four years ago,” said Diggins after the team sprint. “It’s a different course, different altitude, different technique. Literally nothing is the same. And that’s OK.”
As the sun set over the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre and temperatures hovered around 4 degrees Fahrenheit, Rosie Brennan and Diggins were in medal contention until the final leg of the 2022 classic team sprint. The two Olympic veterans gave it their all and crossed the line in fifth.
“Today was going out there and skiing for Rosie and skiing as hard as I could and as best as I could,” added Diggins. “I’ve been working so hard on classic skiing for a very long time. We’re starting to get there. I’m really proud of this race and giving it our best fight.”
On the final lap, as five women fought for three medals, Finland’s Krista Parmakoski and Germany’s Victoria Carl put the hammer down on the 1.5-kilometer course’s main climb. Only current world cup leader Natalia Nepryaeva from the Russian Olympic Committee and Sweden’s Jonna Sundling (who won the 2022 Olympic individual sprint gold medal last week) could hang with them.
Carl surged at the finish to win Germany’s second Olympic gold medal in the women’s team sprint in 22:09.85. Sweden, with Sundling as anchor, was the odds-on favorite to win gold in the classic team sprint but finished with silver 0.17 of a second behind Germany. Nepryaeva finished third for the bronze medal in 22:10.56.
Diggins crossed the line in fifth, 12.93 seconds behind Carl.
“I finished with zero sugars left and was dizzy and sick and am currently wearing all the clothes of my team,” Diggins said. “I definitely went as hard as I could.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.