Hebei’s ZHANGJIAKOU Therese Johaug of Norway earned her third gold medal of the Beijing Olympics on Sunday, while Jessie Diggins of the United States took silver in an individual cross-country skiing event for the first time since 1976.
Johaug took the lead early in the 30-kilometer mass start event and held on to win in 1 hour, 24 minutes, 54 seconds, despite strong gusts and cold conditions. Johaug also won the 10-kilometer classic event and the skiathlon, the first gold medal of the Olympics.
As winds blasted over the tracks and pounded the skiers, many of whom had tape on their faces to protect themselves from the cold, Diggins kept a steady pace behind the Norwegian. She collapsed after reaching the finish line, 1:43.3 seconds behind Johaug.
Kerttu Niskanen of Finland, in 2:33.3, led a pursuit group to the finish line for bronze.
Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the team sprint at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, making history for the United States in cross-country skiing. It was the country’s first gold medal in the sport. Diggins became the first woman to earn an individual medal for the United States at the Beijing Olympics when she won bronze in the sprint.
The silver matched the best individual cross-country skiing achievement ever achieved by an American. At the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics, Bill Koch took silver in the men’s 30-kilometer event.
On Sunday, the temperature was approximately minus 14 degrees Celsius (6.8 degrees Fahrenheit), but the wind chill made it seem much worse. On a 7.5-kilometer (4.6-mile) circuit, the women skied four laps.
On the first lap, Johaug pushed the pace, forming a lengthy line of single skiers snaking over the curves and downhills.
Johaug, Diggins, Ebba Andersson of Sweden, and Delphine Claudel of France built a gap at the first check point at 2.9 kilometres. Rosie Brennan, Krista Parmakoski, and Niskanen were roughly seven seconds back, but by the end of the first lap, the margin had grown to 28 seconds.
The World Cup leader, Natalia Nepryaeva, fell behind and dropped out of the race before the finish of the first lap. Claudel fell behind the pack at the 8.8-kilometer mark.
At approximately 10 kilometres, Johaug moved away from the leaders, with Diggins and then Andersson pursuing. On the hills, the Norwegian kept her customary fast pace, while Diggins stayed close behind, trailing by roughly 23 seconds.
Johaug was 27 seconds ahead of Diggins at the halfway stage, with Andersson 1:15 behind.
The chasing group caught Andersson and Niskanen in a sprint with one lap to go and Johaug and Diggins out front.