BEIJING — Jessie Diggins battled it out and collapsed from exhaustion, winning Team USA’s last Olympic medal at the Beijing Games, a silver in the women’s 30 kilometer race on Sunday.
With strong winds blowing snow on the final day of the Games, Diggins finished 1 minute and 43 seconds behind Norway’s Therese Johaug, who won her third gold medal in Beijing.
Physically exhausted after the distance run which took her 1 hour and 26 minutes, Diggins was helped by team staff immediately after the race as she knelt in the snow.
“Every drop of energy went into this race for sure,” Diggins said. “The last two laps I had leg cramps so I just kept trying to drink as much as I could. We had amazing encouragement and I was like I couldn’t give up. I have to put everything into it. I have in the snow today and end up with nothing left. Maybe I can keep a medal, maybe not, but I have to try.”
A few days ago, Diggins suffered from food poisoning. She wasn’t feeling very confident heading into Sunday’s race. “Twenty-four hours ago I felt really bad. But I lay in bed yesterday and ate some food and drank sports drinks. And it worked, maybe because he been so cold and hard, maybe some extra rest is what I needed.”
American Rosie Brennan finished sixth, capping off a successful Olympics after finishing fourth in the women’s sprint.
It was the 25th Olympic medal for the US team in Beijing, surpassing the 23 won by the Americans four years ago in Pyeongchang.
It’s the third career medal for Diggins, who cemented her status as the most successful American skier in her sport in Olympic history, now with gold, silver and bronze to her credit. She is the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in a distance race.
Diggins won bronze Feb. 8 in the women’s sprint, her first individual Olympic medal. But on Feb. 16, she struggled in the team sprint with Brennan, saying she wasn’t feeling well and was fading over time.
“It was so cool to see Rosie smash,” Diggins said after that run. “I went as hard as I could and there’s no doubt in my mind that I could have tried harder. I ended up with zero sugar and was dizzy and sick. And I’m currently wearing all the Team USA apparel.”
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On Sunday it showed no signs of wear. After 3km she was in the top three and remained in that position for the rest of the race.
In 2018, Diggins teamed with Kikkan Randall to become the first American to win Olympic gold in cross-country skiing in the team sprint.
She is currently third in the overall World Cup standings.