Three American women squared off in the semifinals of the FIS World Cup Sprints in Moscow today. Jessie Diggins led the U.S. Women’s team with a career best sixth place finish, battling through sub-zero temperatures. FIS World Cup sprint leader Kikkan Randall took seventh, which dashed any hopes of making it into the finals by a narrow margin, and Ida Sargent saw the same fate with her twelfth place finish. Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk ended up taking first place for the women’s competition and Teodor Peterson from Sweden took the men’s title.
This is very historic day for the United States as this marks the first time in FIS World Cup history that three Americans made the semifinals.
“In the semifinals, it was really cool to have the U.S. be 1-2-3 for so long”, said Diggins.
Diggins led the qualifying round by a huge 2.47 second margin, and continued into the finals with a podium worthy performance. Unfortunately she lost ground during the finishing stretch of the race and ended up in sixth. This was only Diggins fourth World Cup individual sprint competition and only the second time she qualified for the heats — so not too shabby!
“By the finishing stretch in the final heat, the last couple hundred meters I felt like I had jelly legs. I kept going as hard as I could”, said Diggins.
Chris Grover, the U.S. Cross Country Head Coach was shocked by the huge margin in qualifiers, “We were all a little bit surprised to see Jessie lead qualifying by 2.5 seconds. But her performances the last two weeks had showed she had the ability. But a few other coaches were really questioning it.”
Kikkan Randall slightly extended her lead in the overall points standings and now holds a 100+ point margin over her nearest competitor Natalia Korosteleva from Russia. Randall currently holds fourth place in the World Cup overall standings.
Randall is glad to still be holding onto the leading position, “I’m happy to still be in the red jersey – it’s been quite an honor to wear it for so many weekends. (Poland’s Justyna) Kowalczyk has been sneaking up and will be someone to contend with in the final stretch of the season. I hope I can get back to my top race form. We have one skate and three classic sprints now to the end of the season.”
The World Cup now heads for Rybinsk this weekend.