Nordic

Diggins Caps Worlds With Strong 30k

by
Tom Kelly
2017-03-04 09:52
 

LAHTI, Finland (Mar. 4, 2017) - Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) wrapped up a storybook World Championships Saturday with a U.S. best fifth-place finish in the 30k freestyle mass start in front of a packed Lahti Stadium crowd.

Diggins was the top non-Norwegian as 36-year-old Marit Bjoergen won her third gold of the championships in front of countrywomen Heidi Weng and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen.

“This was by far my best ever 30k, and I had so much fun,” said Diggins. “I was actually smiling during the race. It was an icy fast course with big climbs and my skis were absolute rockets thanks to our service team. I felt like I had so much positive energy today and I don't think I've ever felt more powerful or energetic during a 30k before."

Skiing in her first World Championships, American Chelsea Holmes (Anchorage) skied to a career-best international finish in 13th. Diggins’ overall performance in Lahti was the best ever by an American man or woman at World Championships.

30k
Marit Bjoergen (3) of Norway leads the pack, including Jessie Diggins (4), during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships mass start 30K on Saturday in Lahti, Finland. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom-Giovanni Auletta)

Diggins latched onto the leaders right from the start, remaining with the pack as its size diminished through the race. As the race progressed into its final stages, the four Norwegians set the pace with a strong chase from Diggins, Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, Krista Parmakoski of Finland, Teresa Stadlober of Austria and Anna Haag of Sweden. Going into the final kilometers, the pack of nine had put nearly a minute on the chase heading into the final 5k lap.

Diggins hung towards the rear of the pack, waiting to make her move and to conserve energy. With just over a kilometer to go, she burst ahead into the field, picking off places. About the same time, Kalla broke a pole and dropped back on the final climb up Indian Hill.

“I knew that Marit would attack on the second to last climb but unfortunately I wasn't able to get around any girls on the winding flats before the hill to be in a good position for when the sprint actually happened,” said Diggins. “But I put my head down and started to pick people off one by one and I felt great for my final 100 meter sprint out with Krista.”

Bjoergen and Weng jumped ahead with Jacobsen joining the chase. With Kalla now several seconds back, Diggins battled Parmakoski for the spot up Indian Hill, looping around and down one final time through the Lahti Corner and into the stadium to take fifth by just under a second.

Diggins
Jessie Diggins skied to fifth place Saturday at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. (Getty Images-Nils Petter Nilsson)

What was especially remarkable for the USA was that for the first third of the race the Americans had three skiers battling in the lead group including Diggins, Holmes and Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) with Gregg skiing as high as third early in the race.

“I went for it today,” said Gregg. “Thanks to some very fast skis I was able to move from my start ranking of 32nd up to as high as third around the 5km mark. Our service team did an incredible job making us great skis. My first half of the race went great. Unfortunately the second half didn't come together for me. I am so happy to see Jessie and Chelsea ski so well."

After the first 5k loop, the speed and intensity grew with the back end of the lead group splintering. Diggins got away with nine other women while Holmes found herself skiing in a small chase group.

“These two were fighters today," said coach Matt Whitcomb. “It was incredible to watch their races unfold.”

“I was so proud of Chelsea for skiing so well and laying down 13th place,” said Diggins. “And so psyched that the carefully made training plan [Coach Jason] Cork laid out for me worked so well.”

Diggins leaves Lahti with two medals - silver in the individual sprint and bronze in the classic team sprint. She also anchored the women’s 4x5k relay to fourth, plus her fifth-pace finish in the closing 30k.

The women now head back to the World Cup tour with a classic city sprint in Drammen, Norway Thursday then a 30k classic on Sunday at the Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Oslo.

The men wrap up the World Championships Sunday with a 50k freestyle mass start.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) was fifth in the women’s 30k freestyle to close out the World Championships for the women.
  • It was the best ever U.S. finish in the 30k, eclipsing the 11th from Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) in 2015 at Falun, Sweden.
  • Chelsea Holmes (Anchorage) had a career-best 13th, skiing in her first ever World Championship event.
  • Stephen finished 25th with Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) 35th.

 

QUOTES
Jessie Diggins

This was by far my best ever 30k, and I had so much fun I was actually smiling during the race! It was an icy fast course with big climbs and my skis were absolute rockets thanks to our service team. I felt like I had so much positive energy today and I don't think I've ever felt more powerful or energetic during a 30km before. I stayed near the back to avoid wasting energy as people were moving positions in the last lap, and waited to try and move when we got closer to the inevitable sprint out. 

I knew that Marit would attack on the second to last climb but unfortunately I wasn't able to get around any girls on the winding flats before the hill to be in a good position for when the sprint actually happened. But I put my head down and started to pick people off one by one and I felt great for my final 100meter sprint out with Krista! 

I was so proud of Chelsea for skiing so well and laying down 13th place! And so psyched that the carefully made training plan Cork laid out for me worked so well. 

Caitlin Gregg
I went for it today. Thanks to some very fast skis I was able to move from my start ranking of 32nd up to as high as third around the 5km mark. Our service team did an incredible job making us great skis. My first half of the race went great. Unfortunately the second half didn't come together for me. I am so happy to see Jessie and Chelsea ski so well.

Matt Whitcomb, Head Coach
These two were fighters today. It was incredible to watch their races unfold.

Today capped a World Championships to remember for the women's team.

RESULTS
Women’s 30k Classic