Afton native Jessie Diggins added to her medal collection with a silver medal in the 30-kilometer freestyle race to close out her third Winter Olympics with a flourish.

It was another history making moment for Diggins, who overcame a bout of food poisoning just a day earlier to become the first American cross-country skier to win more than one medal in the same Olympics.

One day after the men’s 50-kilometer race was shortened to slightly less than 30 kilometers, the conditions remained brutally cold and windy — with gusts up to 50-miles per hour — for the women’s distance race on Saturday, Feb. 19 at Zhangjiakou National Cross Country Skiing Centre.

Norway’s Therese Johaug took charge in the first half of the race and never let up while pulling away to a comfortable victory in a time of 1:24:54.0. It was the third gold medal of the Games for Johaug, also won the skiathlon and the 10-kilometer classic race.

Diggins also skied alone for much of the final race, finishing 1:43.3 behind Johaug but 50 seconds ahead of bronze medalist Kerttu Niskanen (1:27:27.3) of Finland.

“We had amazing skis,” Diggins said. “Our team worked so hard. I just tried to ski smart and then I wanted to ski a gutsy race, so when Therese went, I tried to go with her and I couldn’t stay. So then I thought I would just put my head down and ski my own race. That might have been the best race of my entire life, I’m not going to lie. It was also maybe the hardest race of my whole life.”

An exhausted Diggins collapsed after crossing the finish line, a mixture agony and joy after the uncertainty prior to the race.

“It’s really emotional,” Diggins told reporters. “That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my whole life, especially because I had food poisoning 30 hours ago, which is why I thought I was going to die at the finish line.

“My legs were cramping the whole last 17 kilometers. I don’t know how I made it to the finish. It was amazing.”

It was another impressive Olympics for Diggins, who has placed among the top eight in each of last 12 events. It’s even more inspiring when you consider that prior to 2018 the Americans had never recorded a finisher higher than sixth in a women’s cross-country skiing race in the Olympics.

“Honestly, not a lot of confidence (going into the race),” Diggins said. “Twenty-four hours ago, I felt really bad. Maybe because it’s been so cold and so hard, maybe extra rest is what I needed.”

After winning a historic gold medal with Kikkan Randall in the team sprint four years ago, Diggins became the first American to win an individual medal in the sport since Bill Koch won silver in the men’s 30-kilometer race in 1976 when she won bronze in the freestyle sprint on Feb. 8.

Diggins was also the only male or female skier to claim a medal in both the shortest and longest races of this year’s Games.

“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, but I am so happy we made it to the end,” Diggins said. “To have a medal in the sprint and the 30K are the ultimate bookends for me. I have been trying to be a good all-round athlete my whole life, so this has been really cool.”

Diggins wasn’t the only American with a strong showing in the finale, either, as Rosie Brennan (1:27:32.7) finished sixth — less than 4.5 seconds off the medal stand. Teammates Sophia Laukli (1:31:21.2) and Novie McCabe (1:31:22.5) followed in 15th and 18th.

Diggins and Brennan were the only skiers to compete in all six races — and every possible heat — during the Olympics.

In addition to her two medal performances, Diggins sixth in the skiathlon and eighth in the 10-kilometer classic race. She also joined Brennan to place fifth in the classical team sprint and anchored the U.S. 4x5-kilometer relay team that placed sixth.

Before becoming the most decorated American cross-country skier in history, Diggins won three individual state championships before graduating from Stillwater Area High School in 2010.

Contact Stuart Groskreutz at stuart.groskreutz@ecm-inc.com

Diggins at the Olympics

Beijing 2022

15-kilometer skiathlon 6th

Freestyle sprint 3rd

10-kilometer classic 8th

4x5-kilometer relay 6th

Classical team sprint 5th

30-kilometer freestyle 2nd

PyeongChang 2018

15-kilometer skiathlon 5th

Classical sprint 6th

10-kilometer freestyle 5th

4x5-kilometer relay 5th

Freestyle team sprint 1st

30-kilometer classic 7th

Sochi 2014

Freestyle sprint 13th

30-kilometer freestyle 38th

15-kilometer skiathlon 8th

4x5-kilometer relay 8th

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