Stina Nilsson spoils Team USA's bid for 1st cross-country medal

Jessie Diggins battled her way into position Tuesday to become the first American woman to win a cross-country skiin...

Posted: Feb. 13, 2018 4:18 PM
Updated: Feb. 13, 2018 4:18 PM

Jessie Diggins battled her way into position Tuesday to become the first American woman to win a cross-country skiing medal and end Team USA's 42-year medal drought in the sport.

But her luck ran out in the women's individual sprint finals.

Stina Nilsson of Sweden cruised in the finals to capture the sprint's gold medal at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Nilsson finished about three seconds quicker than the field of six. She crossed the finish line in 3 minutes, 0.3 seconds for her first Olympic gold medal.

The 24-year-old Nilsson was the women's top qualifier, finished atop her quarterfinals heat and also her semifinals run.

"I feel very emotional and also very happy," Nilsson said. "I felt strong during the whole day so to be able to take the gold medal was fantastic.

"It means so much. I have worked so hard for this, so many years. It's been many ups and many downs and to take the gold medal today is something that I'm going to be proud of for the rest of my life. I really had the best day of my life so far."

Maiken Caspersen Falla (3:06:87) took home the silver medal, while Russian skier Yulia Belorukova (3:07:21) got the bronze.

After advancing to the finals in a photo finish in the semis, Diggins came in last place of the final heat, more than 11 seconds behind Nilsson and 7.86 seconds behind Belorukova, the bronze medalist.

Still, the 26-year-old Diggins' overall effort was impressive. Diggins was one of three American women to qualify for the quarterfinals and then moved on to the semifinals with a rather crisp run in her quarterfinal heat.

Diggins finished second in her quarterfinal heat but trailed Sweden's Hanna Falk, who finished first, by just 0.16 seconds. Both were over two minutes ahead of the field of six in their heat.

Sophie Caldwell also advanced to the semifinals but came in fourth in her semis heat. Sadie Bjornsen did not make it out of the quarterfinals.

Entering the PyeongChang Games, Team USA was confident this would be the Olympics they end their four-decade-long medal drought and also see the women get their first Olympic medal.

While Diggins fell short of that Tuesday, her showing reaffirmed the excitement around the U.S. cross-country program in PyeongChang. Team USA nearly had two skiers in the women's finals Tuesday.

The U.S. will have more chances to snap its drought and also get its first women's medal in the sport.

For now, Diggins' quest to be the first women's cross-country medalist fell just short.

Cross-country skiing picks back up Thursday with the women's 10km individual after an off day Wednesday.

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