Cross-country skiing: What to know for women’s 15km skiathlon

Cross-country skiing: What to know for women\'s 15km skiathlon
Park City’s Rosie Brennan struggles in her Olympic debut but remains hopeful
nJessie Diggins, an Olympic athlete from Afton, Minnesota catches her breath after placing fifth in the women's cross-country skiathlon event.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins of Afton finished fifth in the 7.5-kilometer skiathlon Saturday.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota changed equipment during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

“That was a tough race,” Brennan said after finishing the 15-kilometer Skiathlon race in 58th place — almost seven minutes behind the winner, Charlotte Kalla of Sweden — Saturday afternoon. “It wasn’t what I was hoping for. But it’s the first one, so I think I just have to be here and enjoy it and hope my shape will come around a little more in the coming weeks.”

For Hart and Diggins, both roads lead to the Olympics

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

Jessie Diggins after skiathlon: ‘My brain and body went to war with each other’

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota approached the finish line during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

The Skiathlon combines two types of cross-country skiing in one race. Competitors ski 7.5 kilometers in the classic style, and then they switch to skate skis for the final 7.5 kilometers of the race. The women completed four laps on a physically grueling and technically challenging course.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota caught her breath at end of the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

Gallery: Jessie Diggins (3) from Afton, Minnesota hugged winner Charlotte Kalla at the end of the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

“The women on the U.S. Team are just absolutely crushing it, so I’m going in with full eyes open that I may not race,” Hart said prior to leaving on her 15-hour flight to South Korea. “Just to be there and helping in any way, whether it’s supporting the team or just testing and waxing skis. While I would love to race, I’m looking forward to the whole experience and being part of the success that the top ones will have.”

Gallery: Jessie Diggins from Afton, Minnesota was cheered on by family members during the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Diggins placed fifth in the women’s cross-country skiathlon event. Diggins was 10th at the halfway transition, 5.4 seconds off the pace. She was able to take 3.3 seconds off that lead by the halfway point of the second leg, but a grueling pace set by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla over the last three kilometers left the field fighting for silver.

“I know all skiers work extremely hard, but I think the Minnesota Nice work ethic is strong,” she said. “We share that if you work hard and do the right things you give yourself a chance, but nothing can be expected. Life is a series of opportunities and all you can do is make yourself as ready as you can before that comes along. As long as you have enough at bats you’re bound to hit a home run once in a while.”
Park City's Rosie Brennan struggles in her Olympic debut but remains hopeful
Park City’s Rosie Brennan struggles in her Olympic debut but remains hopeful

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Jessie Diggins knows her first race of the Pyeongchang Olympics wasn’t her best. In her mind, that puts her right where she wants to be.

The cross-country skier from Afton finished fifth in the skiathlon Saturday, the highest placing ever by an American woman in a cross-country race at the Olympics. Her next chance to make history is expected to come in Tuesday’s classic sprint. Now that Diggins has a feel for the course, the conditions and how to handle the demands of these Olympics, she will fine-tune some details in pursuit of the podium.

Diggins is a four-time World Championship medalist and enters the Games ranked third overall in the FIS World Cup standings. She has achieved many firsts for the U.S. Team the past few years and is enjoying her best season to date, including a 10-kilometer freestyle victory in Austria on Jan. 28 as her final tune-up before the Olympics.
Minnesotan just misses out on first medal ever for US women in cross country skiing
Minnesotan just misses out on first medal ever for US women in cross country skiing

“There are a few things I’m going to dial in this week,’’ Diggins said. “I’m trying to figure out fuel and hydration for these late afternoon races. I think when I get that dialed in and make sure my body is ready to be pushed when I demand it to be pushed, then I’ll really be able to start putting together the results I’m hoping for.’’

“I just kind of chipped away over the last four years and I knew if everything came together I would have a chance, so for everything to come together and being healthy, having good skis and favorable course conditions and enough spots on the team — all those things came together at the right time for this to become a reality.”

In Saturday’s skiathlon, which combines a 7.5-kilometer classic leg with a 7.5k freestyle leg, Diggins learned the course at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Center is both a tactical challenge and “a serious grinder.’’ A bitter wind and some tight areas on the track made it essential to be in just the right position throughout the race.

My brain and my body went to war with each other today. Turned myself inside out and left it all out on the course…and I’m walking away proud of our techs and team, happy with the race, and excited for more! Really, truly feeling the love from both near and far. I think I heard my hometown cheering at 3 AM….almost as loud as my family on course! 😜Love you guys! 😘 (photo reposted from @usskiteam and @kj_go)

Diggins finished 14.7 seconds behind Kalla, posting the 13th-fastest classic leg and the fifth-fastest freestyle time. She said she wasn’t in good position when Kalla made her charge, and when she found her fastest stride, it was too late.

She also was bothered by some cramping and muscle twitching in her arm.

“It was really cool being seconds away from a medal, and seeing it right there,” Diggins told the Team USA website. “I know it’s possible. I know I have what it takes.”

On the verge of Olympic stardom, Afton’s Jessie Diggins hasn’t forgotten her roots

While Diggins was pleased she gave the best possible effort, she knows she can gain some speed with a few adjustments.

“I’ve been struggling to eat enough, and the stress level has been pretty high,’’ she said. “I threw up a little bit before the start because I was so nervous. I’m going to work a little bit on a few things in terms of managing stress.

The ski’s the limit for Diggins

“I’m going to dial in a few more things and make sure next time I’m ready to go. But I’m really proud of my race. Honestly, I can say I could not have pushed harder. I got everything that my body would let me get out of it, so I’m really happy with that.’’

Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla claimed gold at the event. Norwegian Marit Bjoergen and Finland’s Krista Parmakoski also reached the podium.

Two other things, Diggins said, were ideal Saturday. The U.S. wax technicians prepared her skis perfectly, giving her confidence that her equipment will be as fast as possible.

Annie Hart Cross-Country Skiing Schedule, Results: 2018 Olympics

She also caught a glimpse of her family — including parents Clay and Deb and sister Mackenzie — waving an American flag in the stands, adding that their support “has been huge.’’

This is the second Olympics for Diggins, 26, and in the four years since Sochi, she’s climbed higher in World Cup rankings. In early January, she became the first American skier to medal at Europe’s punishing Tour de Ski.

Teammate Kikkan Randall, who finished 40th, kept an eye on Diggins later in the race and was happy to see her staying with the lead pack. “Her day is coming, for sure,’’ Randall said.

US cross-country skiers prepared for Olympic races

“It’s really cool being seconds away from a medal,’’ she said. “I’m ready to do some more. I think I’m in a good place at these Games.’’

In the first medal event of the Winter Olympics on Saturday, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon by more than seven seconds.

Winter Olympics 2018: A beginner’s guide to cross-country skiing ahead of the Pyeongchang Games

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Everyone recognizes traditional cross-country skiing when they see it. In the Olympics, the races are much faster, of course, and skiers use different techniques depending on the event.

For Hart and Diggins, both roads lead to the Olympics
For Hart and Diggins, both roads lead to the Olympics

Classic skiing requires the skis to remain parallel. Skiers can use both poles at the same time, or alternate poles. Classic courses are designed with machine-groomed tracks.

For Hart and Diggins, both roads lead to the Olympics
For Hart and Diggins, both roads lead to the Olympics

Weible’s World of Winter Olympic Sports: Cross-Country Skiing

Using the skating technique, skiers push alternating skis away from one another at an angle; the motion resembles skating on ice. Skis are waxed from front to back, making them faster than classic skis.

Skiathlon: Women ski a 7.5 km leg using classic style and another using skating style. Men ski 15 km legs.

The Olympic Games will all be broadcast on NBC, NBCSN and across NBC Universal networks. For full detailed TV listings, check out NBCOlympics.com.

Watch Live: Late night Team Figure Skating

Sprint: Men and women can use classic or skating technique to ski very short distances.

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

Americans aim to end drought

Relay: In the women 4×5 km and men’s 4x10km events, the first two skaters use the classic technique and the third and fourth use skating.

Mass start: Using classic or skating technique, women ski 30 km and men 50km.

Cross-country skiing was on the original Olympic program in 1924. Women were first included in the 1952 Games.

Six women’s and six men’s events, held at the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre.

Surprise — Norway has the most Winter Olympic medals in history. The top male and female skiers in Olympic history are Bjorn Daehlie (12 medals) and Marit Bjoergen (10), both from Norway.

But other countries are catching up. Finland and Sweden are second and third, respectively, on the all-time medals list. Combine Russia and the Soviet Union and they jump to the top of the list. Italy and Germany field strong teams as well.

The Norwegians, however, fell short of expectations four years ago in Sochi and blamed Knut Nystad, their chief wax technician. They’ll try to rectify the shortfallings of 2014 in South Korea.

Diggins has a good chance of ending the U.S. women’s medal drought. At the 2014 Games, Diggins finished eighth in skiathlon and ninth with the relay team. She’s currently third in the overall World Cup rankings.

But other countries are catching up. Finland and Sweden are second and third, respectively, on the all-time medals list. Combine Russia and the Soviet Union and they jump to the top of the list. Italy and Germany field strong teams as well.

Men: Erik Bjornsen, Patrick Caldwell, Simi Hamilton, Logan Hanneman, Reese Hanneman, Noah Hoffman, Tyler Kornfield, Andy Newell, Scott Patterson.

Women: Sadie Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Rosie Frankowski, Anne Hart, Kaitlynn Miller, Caitlin Patterson, Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent, Liz Stephen.

Diggins has a good chance of ending the U.S. women’s medal drought. At the 2014 Games, Diggins finished eighth in skiathlon and ninth with the relay team. She’s currently third in the overall World Cup rankings.

At the 2017 world championships, Diggins won silver in the individual sprint and bronze in team sprint with Sadie Bjornsen. At worlds in 2015, Diggins won silver in the 10 km freestyle. Diggins teamed with Randall in the team sprint at the 2013 world championships, the first Americans to do so. Diggins has a chance in several events, including the freestyle.

Bjornsen — who is currently in seventh in the World Cup rankings — was a teammate of Diggins’s on the relay team in Sochi four years ago. Her best individual finish in World Cup competition was a bronze in the 5 km at Toblach, Italy, in 2017. She’s a medal contender in the sprint.

Sophie Caldwell is third in the World Cup sprint rankings. She tied for the gold medal in the 1.3k freestyle sprint in late January in Seefeld, Austria.

The U.S. team keeps it all in the family: The Bjornsens are siblings, as are the Hannemans. The Caldwells are cousins.

Marit Bjoergen hopes to add to her 10 Olympic medals, pass Daehlie and become the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby has won three World Cup season titles but hopes for his first Olympic gold in the skiathlon. He and Marcus Hellner of Sweden should top the field in the 15 km freestyle.

Sweden has won the past two golds in the men’s relay but Norway hopes to end that streak.

Canadian Alex Harvey is the world champion in the 50 km mass start. Five miles longer than a marathon, it’s one of the most grueling Olympic events. Two-time gold medalist Petter Northug — who stars in his own reality TV show — will try to take the title from Harvey.

Charlotte Kalla, Bjoergen and Heidi Weng are top contenders in the women’s mass start, the final cross-country event of the Games.

Events begin on the first full day of the Games, Feb. 10, and continue until the final day.

All events will air on NBC and NBCSN, but only three will be shown live. Here is a schedule of the finals, with television coverage in parentheses (all times Eastern). Races are also available by live-streaming at NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC Sports app.

Feb. 10: Women’s 7.5×7.5 km skiathlon, 2:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 2-6 a.m., live)

Feb. 11: Men’s 15×15 km skiathlon, 1:15 a.m., (NBCSN, 5-9 a.m.; NBC, 3-6 p.m.)

Feb. 13: Women’s sprint classic, 7:25 a.m., men’s sprint classic, 7:34 a.m. (NBCSN, 5-7:10 a.m., 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)

Feb. 15: Women’s 10km freestyle, 1:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 5-7:10 a.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m., 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m.)

Feb. 16: Men’s 15km freestyle, 1 a.m. (NBCSN, 11 p.m., live; Feb. 15-2:40 a.m., live; Feb 16; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)

Feb. 17: Women’s 4x5km relay, 4:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 10:30 a.m-1:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-6 p.m.)

Feb. 18: Men’s 4x10km relay, 1:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 1-5 p.m.; NBC, 7 p.m.-midnight)

Feb. 21: Women’s team sprint, 5 a.m. (NBCSN, 10:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m., NBC, 8-11 p.m.); men’s team sprint, 5:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 10:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)

Feb. 24: Men’s 50km mass start, midnight (NBCSN, midnight-3 a.m., live; NBC, 3-6 p.m.)

Feb. 25: Women’s 30km mass start, 1:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 2-4 a.m.; NBC, 3-6 p.m.)



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