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Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins win USA’s first ever gold in cross country skiing

USA’s 42-year medal drought in cross country is over!

Cross-Country Skiing - Winter Olympics Day 12 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins broke a 42-year Olympic drought for the USA in cross country skiing with the pair winning gold in the women’s team sprint freestyle in Pyeongchang.

Randall and Diggins edged out Sweden and Norway to capture the historic gold in a blazing time of 15:56.47 — 26 seconds faster than their semi-final time. Diggins, who narrowly missed the podium several times this Olympics, dug deep in the final sprint to catch race leader Stina Nilsson of Sweden, and surged past her at the line to win by 0.19 seconds.

The gold medal is the first in U.S. history in cross country, and you’d need to go back to the Innsbruck Games in 1976 to find a U.S. medal of any kind in cross country skiing. The last winner was Bill Koch, who took home silver in the men’s 30 km sprint — but gold has constantly been out of the USA’s reach in the event, which is routinely dominated by Nordic countries.

Randall and Diggins always believed in their ability, but that didn’t make their win any less shocking. The pair spoke to the New York Times, saying:

“It feels unreal; I can’t believe it just happened,” Diggins said. “But we’ve been feeling so good these entire Games, and just having it happen at a team event means so much more to me than any individual medal ever would.”

Diggins, age 26, has plenty of skiing left, as her career is still in its relative infancy. The Minnesota native is already the future of the sport in the USA — but the medal held extra significance to her teammate, with Randall likely competing in her last Olympics.

This was Randall’s fifth Winter Olympic games. Her ninth-place finish in the sprint at Torino in 2006 was the highest an American woman had finished at the Olympics — but reaching the podium had eluded her for 16 years.

Now the pair are Olympic champions, and the USA’s cross country drought has broken.

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