GAELLIVARE, Sweden - The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team made history Sunday, scoring its first ever FIS World Cup relay podium in a women's 4x5-kilometer team event in Gaellivare, Sweden. In a race where each of the four U.S. women needed to have their best ever 5k races, Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) outsprinted Norway II into the finish to claim third with Norway taking the win over Sweden. After a solid opening classic leg by Holly Brooks (Anchorage, Alaska), Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) skied strategically with the pack before finding an opportunity off a corner to take a line on the leader.
She skied the fastest leg of the day, putting the team into podium position and allowing Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) to power through a freestyle leg and set the stage for Diggins to bring home the podium 8.8 seconds behind Sweden and a half-second ahead of a hard-charging Norway II. Norway I took a solid win 19.6 seconds ahead of Sweden. The U.S. women scored a previous best last winter in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, finishing fifth without an ailing Randall.
"We've known this was possible for a long time. we just knew it was going to take each of us putting together the right performance on the right day and we could be in the fight for the podium. Today everything came together," Randall said, later adding, "It was one of the strongest waves of emotion I've felt in a while."
The U.S. men finished 15th in the 4x7.5-kilometer relay. The World Cup now heads to Kuusamo, Finland for the opening sprints of the season.