CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Diggins takes first World Cup gold in 2019 in Cogne Sprint

American Cross Country Skiing star Jessica Diggins

If she never competes again, Jessie Diggins’ place in U.S. Olympic history is secure. Her PyeongChang victory with Kikkan Randall in the Team Sprint was the first-ever Cross Country gold medal for the United States.

But while Randall has retired, Diggins, 27, continues on and scored her first World Cup win of the season in the 1.6 km Freestyle Sprint in Cogne (ITA). But it was a struggle.

She barely made it out of her quarterfinal in fourth place. She was third in her semi, but advanced to the final under the “Lucky Loser” rules. And then she managed to out-sprint Germany’s Sandra Ringwald, Johanna Hagstroem (SWE) and Ane Stenseth (NOR) by 0.11, 0.86 and 1.31 seconds to get to the line first in the final.

“Man I’m glad they do lucky loser,” said Diggins afterwards. “Honestly, there have been lots of ups and downs this year, you don’t know what going to happen, but you have to believe in yourself and keep pushing the whole way.”

Diggins wasn’t the only American in the final, as Sadie Bjornsen finished fifth, 2.23 seconds behind Diggins. Bjornsen also has a World Cup medal this season and her third top-five finish in a Sprint in 2018-19

For Diggins, it was her fourth medal of the season, but her first win. She now owns six career World Cup gold medals.

Home favorite Federico Pellegrino won the men’s Sprint, but the U.S. got good news in the fourth-place finish – best this season – from Simi Hamilton.

“The final was tough,” Hamilton said. “It’s always tricky coming from the second semifinal with such a short turnaround into the finals, but I’m proud of how I skied it and although fourth is a frustrating place to be, I think it’s a good sign leading into World Champs.”

In the Classical distance racing, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov won his third race of the season, but first since the opening weekend of the season last November. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen, 30, won her first World Cup race since 2014 in the 10 km Classical. Her younger brother, Iivo, 27, was runner-up to Bolshunov in the men’s race! Most of the star racers skipped the weekend to prep for next week’s World Nordic Championships in Seefeld (AUT). Summaries:

FIS Cross Country World Cup
Cogne (ITA) ~ 16-17 February 2019
(Full results here)

Men’s 1.6 km Freestyle Sprint: 1. Federico Pellegrino (ITA), 3:09.07; 2. Francesco de Fabiani (ITA), +0.48; 3. Lucas Chanavat (FRA), +0.51; 4. Simi Hamilton (USA), +3.91; 5. Sondre Fossi (NOR), +4.03.

Men’s 15 km Classical: 1. Alexander Bolshunov (RUS), 34:48.4; 2. Iivo Niskanen (FIN), 35:32.1; 3. Alexander Bessmertnykh (RUS), 35:44.3; 4. Alexey Poltoranin (KAZ), 35:49.2; 5. Ilia Poroshkin (RUS), 35:56.1. Also in the top 26: 16. Erik Bjornsen (USA), 36:43.2; … 26. Kyle Bratrud (USA), 37:09.5.

Women’s 1.6 km Freestyle Sprint: 1. Jessica Diggins (USA), 3:32.73; 2. Sandra Ringwald (GER), +0.11; 3. Johanna Hagstroem (SWE), +0.86; 4. Ane Appelkvist Stenseth (NOR), +1.31; 5. Sadie Bjornsen (USA) +2.23.

Women’s 10 km Classical: 1. Kerttu Niskanen (FIN), 27:24.8; 2. Nadine Faehndrich (SUI), 27:27.8; 3. Natalia Nepryaeva (RUS), 27:37.4; 4. Yulia Belorukova (RUS), 27:39.2; 5. Alisa Zhambalova (RUS), 27:55.7. Also: 21. Rosie Brennan (USA), 28:44.4.