Sunday, February 24, 2013

Team (USA) Sprint: The Randall & Diggins Show

I just rewatched today's women's team sprint at the Val di Fiemme World Championships. I don't think skiing has raised the hair on the back of my neck more since the American nordic combined boys medaled in Vancouver. Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall were not just the gold medalists today; they were far and away the smartest, most aggressive, most tenacious, and fastest skiers on the snow.

Photo stolen from Audrey Magnan

The peak moment was Randall winning by a country mile, but the previous lap was the clincher. First, Diggins decisively took the lead just out of the stadium. A minute or two later, as she crested the big climb, lost her pole to the Finnish racer in second place. In the slo-mo replay, you can see Diggins shout for a replacement, but she hardly slowed down: she charged hard for 150 meters on one pole, keeping contact with the Finn and separating from the Swede in third.

It was an astounding moment of ski racing, and Diggins followed it up a minute later when - re-armed with a pole that looked longer than she is - she charged the last hill and took the inside line on a tricky uphill left-hand hairpin. The aggression put her back into a lead which she didn't relinquish and which Randall then extended in her amazing effortless style all the way to the line. Gold, set, and match.
Photo stolen from Audrey Magnan at

It's inarguable at this point that the naissance of the American women's team is due to Kikkan Randall. Over the last decade, she has showed everyone that there's no reason that the U.S. can't produce world-class - and now, world champion - skiers. I think the clearest evidence of this is Jessie Diggins: she doesn't know that she shouldn't be the best, so in fact now she is, racing with breathtaking heart and skill. I can't wait to see what the full relay quartet does on Thursday. The American women know they're among the world's best. Now they can show it again.