Published: Wed, February 21, 2018
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

US ends 42-year Olympic cross-country medal drought with historic gold

US ends 42-year Olympic cross-country medal drought with historic gold

USA's Jessica Diggins, left, and Kikkan Randall react after winning gold in the women's cross country team sprint free final during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 21, 2018.

Those achievements produced high pressure and expectations for the American women.

In the last event of her last Olympics - she's been to five - Kikkan Randall finally did what no American woman had ever done: win a medal in cross-country skiing. Bill Koch won silver in the now-defunct men's 30k in 1976 in Innsbruck.

Diggins came to PyeongChang peaking at the right time. Diggins quickly took the lead once again in impressive fashion on the first ascent before falling back to third about halfway through the final lap.

The race paired Diggins, who has won more world championship medals than any USA cross-country skier in history, with Randall, the veteran whose success made the Americans contenders after years of futility.

Diggins held off the challenge of Sweden's Stina Nilsson in a furious sprint for the line to win gold and Norway's Marit Bjoergen became the most successful winter Olympian of all time with 14 medals after taking bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla. And with plans firmly in place to retire and make a new home with her family after the 2018 Games, it seemed possible that Randall, 35, might see her career end without an Olympic medal.

But Diggins, who finished sixth in the individual sprint and fifth in both the 15k and the 4 x 5 relay, found a stunning extra gear at the end.

It was a exhilarating and emotional finish for Randall and Diggins, and one that will leave their names in the United States Olympic record books forever.

She came to PyeongChang with momentum, having won the final world cup race - a 10-kilometer freestyle mass start - in Seefeld, Austria.

Diggins was so dominant that people were not predicting if she would win.

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