Diggins Wins Gold, Makes History at 2023 World Championships
Jessie Diggins made history at World Championships with a gold medal in the women's 10km skate - the first individual World Championships gold medal in history for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. "This was one of the best races of my life," Diggins said. "I didn't want to believe it until the race was finished, but I when i finally got up off the snow I realized this was the best race of my life - it was really special."
Diggins is now the first U.S. woman with an individual World Championships gold medal. "I hope that this inspires the next generation to know that you can do it and work hard with a great team," she said. "I hope it inspires some little kids with glitter back home!"
It was the sixth day of racing in Planica, the stakes were high in the 10km skate race. With the Swedish team standing atop the podium in every race of the championships so far for the women, there was pressure to shake it up. Coming fresh off a bronze medal in the team sprint with teammate Julia Kern, Diggins was well prepared for the 10km along with teammates Rosie Brennan, Sophia Laukli and Kern. All started within a few minutes of each other in the strong 81-woman field and right out of the starting pen, racers were giving it their all.
Through the first split zone at .9km, Diggins was 1.1 seconds back from the leader, Jonna Sundling of Sweden. Right in the mix was Brennan, who clocked in at fourth place - only two seconds back. With the pace progressing faster and faster, Diggins held it together, taking over the lead position starting at the 2.2km marker and never letting it up until she crossed the finish line. Laukli, Kern and Brennan kept a consistent pace through the twists and turns of the two lap course and as the splits showed, continually picked racers off. At the last time check marker at 7.7km, Diggins was first, Brennan was 11th, Laukli 25th and Kern 36th.
"I was really excited for the race today. I’m a big fan of these courses so I was psyched to see what I could do," said Laukli. "The race itself went well and I felt great which I was happy about. I also had a lot of fun throughout the race and moving up bit by bit. Results-wise, I was maybe a little bummed and wanted a bit more, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. So overall I was happy to feel good and have some fun out there, which is all I could really ask for."
For Kern, after her race she focused on how big this day was for the entire team - merely hours after she brought home a World Championship medal with Diggins in the team sprint.
"Although today was personally not the day I dreamed of, it was a huge day for our team," said Kern. "I am so incredibly proud of how our team reached a big milestone today, and how Jessie skied her heart out! I’m proud that I went out hard with the intention of being in the fight from the beginning. It is hard to post a top result by racing conservatively, so I went for it and unfortunately today was one of those days that things didn’t come together, and I am not sure why."
Diggins win today was also the first time a non-European won a gold medal at the World Championships since 2017.
Behind Diggins in the silver medal position was Sweden's Frida Karlsson and bronze was Ebba Andersson. As for her teammates, Brennan finished 15th, Laukli 25th and Kern 34th.
Now, the team focuses on the men's 15km tomorrow, March 1.