When Team USA's Jessie Diggins came down the final hill during the ladies team sprint in cross-country skiing, she was in third place, with the end of the race not too far away. Shortly after Diggins did cross the finish line, however, she fell to the snow, where she was met with a visibly emotional embrace by teammate Kikkan Randall. That sight is among the many reasons why this video of the U.S. women winning cross-country skiing gold is simply epic.
“It feels unreal; I can’t believe it just happened,” Diggins said after the race, per The New York Times. “But we’ve been feeling so good these entire Games, and just having it happen at a team event means so much more to me than any individual medal ever would.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the two American women won Team USA's first ever gold medal in Olympic cross-country skiing with a dramatic comeback victory. For 35-year-old Randall, the win means she now has her first Olympic medal after appearing at at five Winter Games.
“Hearing it out loud, it still doesn’t feel real,” Randall said after the event. “It’s what I’ve been working on for 20 years and with this team for the last five years and, wow, it’s just so fun to put it together tonight, finally.”
The video of Wednesday's cross-country finish can be seen below.
Diggins and Randall's success at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang marks only the second time in Olympic history that a cross-country medal of any color was awarded to an American. The first was won by Bill Koch, who took home silver in the 30 km event at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
For a good portion of the team sprint final on Wednesday, it looked as though Team USA would win that elusive second-ever medal, but only with a third place finish.
When Diggins' was tagged in before the final leg of the race, the American was trailing behind Maiken Caspersen-Falla of Norway and Stina Nilsson of Sweden, two opponents who have been there and done that, having won a combined seven Olympic cross-country skiing medals.
It wasn't until the last stretch of the event — a flat straightaway past all the twists, turns and inclines the course in PyeongChang features — that Diggins was able to make a last-minute push for gold.
“In the final stretch I was just thinking, Go, go, go, I’m giving it everything I had and I’ve got someone who I really love and care about waiting for me at the finishing line and I just want to make her proud,” Diggins said after the race, per The Times.
That final stretch did not come without hurt. All three skiers competing for gold were visibly exhausted, a fact which NBC Sports commentators Al Trautwig and Chad Salmela duly noted during the broadcast of the event. After the race, Diggins would admit to the Minnesota Star-Tribune that she "was in a lot of pain, for sure."
Randall didn't give up hope, though.
“If there’s anybody I’d have 100 percent faith in coming down that finishing stretch as fast as possible, it’s Jessie,’’ Randall told the Star-Tribune. “It was just a wonderful feeling to take it all in and watch it happen.’’
Then came the finish. Then came the hug.
“I was like, ‘Did we just win the Olympics?’’’ Diggins told the Star-Tribune about the first words she said to Randall after the race. “And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ It was amazing. “It feels unreal. I can’t believe it just happened. But we’ve been feeling so good these entire Games, and just having it happen at a team event means so much more to me than any individual medal ever would.’’
Before Wednesday's team sprint final, Diggins had fail to medal in four previous events at the PyeongChang Olympics. The fifth event would turn out dramatically different.