BY STEVE REED
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The long Olympic drought is over for the United States in cross-country skiing.
Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall became the first Americans to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport on Wednesday by shocking powerhouses Norway and the Sweden in the women’s team sprint at the Pyeongchang Games.
Diggins passed Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, on the final lap and out-sprinted Sweden’s Stina Nilsson to the finish. Diggins screamed as she crossed the finish line, setting off a huge celebration for the red, white and blue.
As Diggins collapsed to the ground, Randall jumped on her and American teammates cheered from behind the wall guarding the entrance to the course. Soon they all joined together in one huge celebration.
To put the victory in perspective, the United States had never won a medal of any kind in women’s cross-country skiing prior to the race.
The only American to previously win an Olympic medal in the sport was Bill Koch, who took silver in the 30-kilometer race in the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck.
The Americans posted the fastest time in the semifinals to start on the front row in the final. Diggins passed the Swedes and the Norwegians on the final lap to secure the elusive win. Sweden took silver and Norway finished with a bronze, which allowed Bjoergen to secure her record 14th medal in the Winter Games. That broke her tie with Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjourndalen for most medals in the Winter Olympics.
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