Jessie Diggins broke through the “pain cave” when her body told her to stop and her mind said no. She crossed the finish line in full tilt with nothing left to give at 1:26:37.3 to become the first non-European athlete to win a medal in the women’s 30km mass start event. American Bill Koch won silver in the now discontinued men’s 30km in 1976.The Minnesota native maintained intensity and found her rhythm early. Diggins’ trusted her anaerobic levels and fought through the pain barrier with glitter on her cheeks to add to her full color run of medals.
Diggins’ silver medal victory completed the feat of earning a sprint medal and distance medal at the same Winter Olympics. She wouldn’t let Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen catch her to steal silver. Diggins’ freestyle strides had strength and determination in each glide and kept Niskanen at bay with bronze at 1:27:27.3.
The gold medalist of the mass start race was Norway’s Therese Johaug. She kept herself safely out of reach of competitors to win her second individual Olympic gold medal and finished the race at 1:24:54.0. Johaug broke away from the lead group early, battling her way through gusting 17kmph winds to steadily increase her advantage with each kilometer. When her legs were screaming and her lungs were begging for air, she remained strong on her skis and increased her cadence to dominate gradients with ease.
Prior to Johaug taking the start line on Sunday, she announced that the mass start would be her last race at the Olympics. Coming into her last Winter Olympic appearance, she previously won 19 World Championship medals, 14 of them gold. She clinched her first individual Olympic gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in the women’s skiathlon.
The grueling endurance race weeded out some of the most successful cross-country skiers on the World stage including ROC’s Natalya Nepryayeva. She capped her 2022 Winter Olympic experience with a shocking “DNF” and walked off the course towards the end of her first lap. The 26-year-old is the current overall World Cup leader and looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable on the course, laboring up inclines and finding slow ski times. She left the Games with gold, silver and bronze medals from the women’s relay, skiathlon, and team sprint.
Diggins’ compatriot Rosie Brennan upped her pace and maintained her status in the first chase group. She is an athlete that loves facing the challenge of an incline and is where she made her moves on competitors. She ended in sixth at 1:27:32.7 over four loops of 7.5km with 300 meters of climbs.
The women’s 30km mass start freestyle concluded the cross-country skiing program at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
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