Jessie Diggins wins Olympic silver in gritty 30km, final medal for Team USA

Team USA's Jessie Diggins win silver in the women's 30km mass start at the 2022 Winter Olympics
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Much like the glitter she wears on her cheeks, Team USA‘s Jessie Diggins’ first and second career Olympic medals came with sparkling fashion marked by furious sprints.

Her third Olympic medal, however, required a long slog. But the result is just as shiny.

MORE WINTER OLYMPICS COVERAGE: The most memorable and historic moments in women’s sports

On the final day of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Diggins won Team USA’s final medal in Beijing: a silver in cross-country skiing’s women’s 30km (equivalent to 18.6 miles). Norway’s Therese Johaug won the race, while Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen claimed bronze.

“That might have been the best race of my entire life, I’m not going to lie. It was also maybe the hardest race of my whole life,” said Diggins.

She revealed that she has been dealing with food poisoning for the last 30 hours, “Which is why I thought I was going to die at the finish line.”

After waking up on Saturday morning “pretty much everything was coming right out of me,” she spent most of the day in bed, forcing herself to eat food ahead of the grueling marathon race.

“I was talking to my parents and my mom said, ‘Don’t decide how you feel right now, just go out there and ski because you love to race.’ And she was right.”

MORE JESSIE DIGGINS COVERAGE: Jessie Diggins’ legacy extends far beyond her historic Olympic gold

Diggins now has a “complete set” of Olympic medals, thanks to her historic gold from PyeongChang and her individual sprint bronze from earlier at these Beijing Winter Games.

If anyone knows how to do hard things, it is Jessie Diggins

Already the only American in history to win two Olympic medals in the sport, Diggins’ third career medal further solidifies her record as the greatest U.S. cross-country skier of all-time. She also becomes the sixth member of Team USA to win two medals in Beijing, joining Nathan Chen, Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue, Elana Meyers Taylor and Lindsey Jacobellis.

Just three kilometers into the 30km event, the quartet of Diggins, Johaug, Sweden’s Ebba Andersson and France’s Delphine Claudel had separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

By 10 kilometers, the trio of Johaug, Diggins, and Andersson had separated themselves from each other. For the next 20 kilometers – nearly one hour of racing – that’s how the race continued. It was not a pretty race, but it was certainly a gritty one.

Johaug managed to hang on to win gold, crossing the line in 1:24:54. The Norwegian skier – who missed the 2018 Winter Olympics while dealing with a doping-related suspension – won three gold medals at these 2022 Winter Olympics, bringing her career total to six.

Diggins was also too quick to be caught. The 30-year-old from Afton, Minn., finished a minute and 43 seconds behind Johaug to claim silver.

But the chase pack caught up with Andersson. In the dying moments of the 30km event, she was passed by Finland’s Niskanen, who claimed bronze. Andersson went on to finish eighth.

“My legs were cramping the whole last 17km. I don’t know how I made it to the finish,” Diggins said on the NBC broadcast, also noting the support she felt from other Team USA athletes at the venue.

“That was so hard, but it was so special, because I felt like we had so much love out there. So I just want to say ‘thank you.'”

In addition to Diggins, her U.S. teammates Rosie Brennan (sixth), Sophie Laukli (15th), and Novie McCabe (18th) also had strong performances, marking the first time four American athletes finished in the top 18 of any Olympic cross-country skiing event. Today’s 30km marked the 21-year-old Laukli’s Olympic debut.

Video of Jessie Diggins winning the women’s 30km at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

Even without a medal, Rosie Brennan’s performance at the 2022 Winter Olympics was remarkable

In Beijing, Brennan finished in the top-15 of all six cross-country skiing events, including a fourth-place result in the individual sprint and sixth-place finish today (just 5.4 seconds off the podium after an hour and 27 minutes of racing).

It’s a remarkable performance for the 32-year-old, who says she needed a few extra years to reach her prime.

Four years ago, the then-28-year-old Brennan made her Olympic debut in PyeongChang, where she competed in one event – the skiathlon – finishing 58th. She was cut from the U.S. team after those Winter Olympics – she would later discover that she had been competing with an undiagnosed case of mononucleosis – and spent the next year funding her own training and racing. She eventually made her way back onto the U.S. national cross-country skiing team and had a breakout 2020-21 season on the World Cup circuit.

A note for the cross-country skiing record books:

At the Olympics and world championships, it is tradition that the longest men’s cross country race is 50km long, while the longest women’s event is 30km.

“On principle, it really bothers me a lot,” Diggins told NBC Olympics last spring. “Not only can we ski 50km, but we can ski more.”

While the women didn’t ski 50km in Beijing, the men didn’t either. Due to extreme weather conditions, including strong winds, the men’s 50km event on Saturday in Beijing was shortened. While it was called a 30km, it technically only clocked in at 28.4km.

The women’s race on Saturday, however, went the full 30km.

Even though the result was unintentional, it is still a significant moment in the Games called the “most gender balanced ever” that women skied farther than men for the first time ever at an Olympic Games.

Looking ahead, Diggins believes races could be organized so that men and women’s events take the same amount of time, even if they aren’t the same distance.

“Do we need to race the exact same length? Maybe not. Do we need to race the same amount of time on course? Yeah, I think that’s absolutely reasonable,” she said.

Cross-Country Skiing Women’s 30km – Top 10 Finishers at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

Result Nation Athlete Time Time Behind
1 NOR Therese JOHAUG 1:24:54.0 0
2 USA Jessie DIGGINS 1:26:37.3 +1:43.3
3 FIN Kerttu NISKANEN 1:27:27.3 +2:33.3
4 SWE Jonna SUNDLING 1:27:29.4 +2:35.4
5 ROC Tatiana SORINA 1:27:31.2 +2:37.2
6 USA Rosie BRENNAN 1:27:32.7 +2:38.7
7 FRA Delphine CLAUDEL 1:27:34.0 +2:40.0
8 SWE Ebba ANDERSSON 1:27:35.5 +2:41.5
9 ROC Mariya ISTOMINA 1:28:00.1 +3:06.1
10 FIN Krista PARMAKOSKI 1:28:35.0 +3:41.0

 

On Her Turf writer Lisa Antonucci and the NBC Olympics research team contributed to this report. 

Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.