Author of Story: Peter Graves/USSA.ORG
In a sparkling day that saw the persistent fog come and go at Holmenkollen, rookie Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) skied a strong anchor leg to move the USA into ninth. The Norwegian women proved to be the class of the field, with Marit Bjoergen earning her fourth gold anchoring Norway to the win the 4x5k relay over rival Sweden in front of a jam-packed sellout crowd at the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo.
“I was really happy with our day,” said Diggins. “It was pretty nerve wracking – there’s Marit Bjoergen and Charlotte Kalla and the other girls anchoring for their teams. I was like, ‘whoa, this is going to be really fast.’ But it ended up going really well.”
The USA squad included Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), Holly Brooks (Anchorage), Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) and Diggins for the mixed technique relay.
“It was fun and the noise was incredible,” she added. “Pretty much every single inch of the course someone was cheering and they didn’t even care what country. They were chanting USA. Some of them had a start list and would say your name. That was really cool.”
“I learned that I was going to be on the team last night,” said Brooks, a 2010 Olympian. “I was really excited and felt good about my leg. I had a really good classic ski the other day so I was looking forward to getting back at it. It’s really fun to go out there and battle it out with the other teams. I went out closely behind Russia and Japan. I had to pace myself a little bit in the beginning.”
Randall skied the opening classic technique scramble leg. The Alaskan, who has won two World Cups this season, put the USA into eighth. Brooks skied the second 5k leg handing off to Stephen in 11th. The U.S. women then trailed leading Norway by 1:26 at that tag, when Stephen took off for the third leg with the ninth fastest time of the round to move up to 10th. When the tag for the anchor leg came to the fast-improving Diggins, she worked her way up and passed Japan for ninth, finishing 2:54.7 behind the Norwegian victors.
Action continues Friday with the men’s 4x10k mixed technique relay. The USA will go with Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) and Tad Elliott (Durango, CO). The women wrapup the Championships Saturday with a 30k classic.
Gold: Norway, (Vibeke W. Skofterud, Therese Johaug, Kristin Stoermer, Marit Bjoergen), 53;30.0
Silver: Sweden, (Ida Ingemarsdotter, Anna Haag, Britta Johansson Norgren, Charlotte Kalla), +36.1
Bronze: Finland, (Pirjo Muranen, Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Riita-Liisa Roponen, Krista Lahteenmaki), +59.8
9. USA, (Kikkan Randall, Liz Stepehn, Holly Brooks, Jessie Diggins), +2:54.7
For complete results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=CC&raceid=17540