BEIJING – Jessie Diggins fought to the finish and collapsed from exhaustion, claiming Team USA’s final Olympic medal of the Beijing Games, a silver in the women’s 30-kilometer event Sunday.
With a fierce wind blowing snow on the last day of the Games, Diggins finished 1 minute, 43 seconds behind Therese Johaug of Norway, who claimed her third gold in Beijing.
Physically drained after the distance race that took her 1 hour, 26 minutes to complete, Diggins was helped by team staff immediately after the race as she kneeled in the snow.
“Every last drop of energy went into that race, that’s for sure,” Diggins said. “The last two laps my legs were cramping so I just kept trying to drink as much as I could. We had amazing cheering out there, and I was like ‘I just can’t give up. I have to put everything I have into the snow today and finish with nothing left. Maybe I can hold on to a medal, maybe not, but I have to try.’ “
A few days ago, Diggins was suffering from food poisoning. She didn’t feel very confident coming into Sunday’s race. “Twenty-four hours ago, I felt really bad. But I just laid in bed yesterday mostly and ate food and drank sports drinks. And it worked, maybe because it has been so cold and so hard, maybe extra rest is what I needed.”
American Rosie Brennan finished sixth, capping a successful Olympics after finishing fourth in the women’s sprint.
It was the 25th Olympic medal for the U.S. team in Beijing, topping the 23 the Americans won four years ago in Pyeongchang.
This is the third career medal for Diggins, who cemented her status as the most successful American skier in her sport in Olympic history, now with gold-silver-bronze to her name. She is the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in a long-distance race.
Diggins won bronze Feb. 8 in the women’s sprint, her first individual Olympic medal. But on Feb. 16 she struggled in the team sprint with Brennan, saying she wasn’t feeling well and fading down the stretch.
“It was so cool to see Rosie just crushing,” Diggins said after that race. “I went as hard as I could and there’s no doubt in my mind I could have possibly tried harder. I finished with zero sugars left and was dizzy and sick. And I’m currently wearing all the clothes of Team USA.”
Sunday she showed no signs of wearing down. After 3K she was among the top three and stayed in that position for the remainder of the race.
In 2018, Diggins teamed with Kikkan Randall to become the first Americans to win Olympic gold in cross country skiing in the team sprint.
She is currently third in the overall World Cup standings.