The ladies’ group dash was coming down to a run complete for the gold decoration Wednesday at the Winter Olympics, and like such a large number of Alaskans who were watching eagerly, Kikkan Randall was on pins and needles. She remained alongside Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in the complete zone at the Alpensia Ski Center in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as their colleagues – Jessie Diggins for the United States, Stina Nilsson for Sweden – battled fiercely through the last couple of meters.
At the point when Diggins fought against eminent loss to catch the gold award by .19 of a moment, not even those with front-push seats knew who the victor was.
“I was remaining in the complete with Charlotte and we were both shouting as loud as possible for our colleagues, so we were having our own little rivalry,” Randall said Thursday at a public interview in Pyeongchang.
“From our point of view it was extremely difficult to advise who would have been ahead, so it was a nail-biter the distance to that end goal. Whenever Jessie (was done), I investigated at the scoreboard and saw ‘Joined States: No. 1’ and simply let out a shout and handled Jessie, and she stated, ‘Gracious my gosh, did we simply win the Olympics?’
Diggins ranks third in this season’s World Cup standings, and twice in Pyeongchang she came agonizingly close to a medal, finishing 3.3 seconds off the podium in one race and 4.6 away from bronze in another. The Americans were part of a big lead pack for the entire race until Diggins, Nilsson and Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Fall made it a three-team race in the final leg.
With a few hundred meters to go, Diggins and Nilsson surged ahead of Fall to make it a two-woman race for the gold. Diggins was right behind Nilsson until the final dozen meters or so, when she moved to her right to create space to make her bid for victory. She took the lead with a ski-length or two to go and sealed the victory with her lunge.
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“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of sweat and a lot of belief,” Diggins said of the buildup to this golden moment. “But for me the biggest thing was seeing the team and knowing that Kikkan was waiting for me at the finish line. When your teammate’s waiting for you and you know their dreams are on the line as well as yours, that brings out the absolute best in me every single time.”
Both women spoke about their drive to succeed as a team. They are part of a U.S. team that has gone from participant to powerhouse during Randall’s reign – Bjornsen is ranked seventh in the world and Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell is ranked 17th – and they mean it when they post on social media that they are #bettertogether.
After her disappointment in Sochi, where she was a medal contender in the freestyle sprint but failed to advance to the quarterfinals, Randall had to decide whether to keep racing or start a family with husband, Jeff Ellis.