Jessie Diggins And Other Team USA Olympians Have Stayed Strong Since The Winter Games
by Chrös McDougall
Jessie Diggins competes during the women's cross-country 4x5-kilometer relay at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Jessie Diggins’ face said it all.
The American cross-country skiing star, in one of the most memorable performances of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, raced in six events between Feb. 5 and Feb. 20.
And so 15 days after opening the Games with a sixth-place finish in the grueling skiathlon, and 12 days after becoming Team USA’s first female medalist in the sport by taking bronze in the sprint, the 30-year-old Minnesotan closed out the Olympics with the sport’s longest race: the 30-kilometer mass start.
In a race 20 times longer than the sprint, Diggins unearthed one of the gutsiest performances of the Games to win the marathon silver medal.
Her face crossing the finish line told the story. Mouth agape, legs giving out, Diggins collapsed into the snow. The exhaustion from a packed Olympic schedule, with medals in both the shortest and the longest event, was palpable.
“That might have been the best race of my entire life, I’m not going to lie,” she said afterward. “It was also maybe the hardest race of my whole life.”
But at least she got a break after that. Right?
Just six days later and on the other side of the world in Lahti, Finland, Diggins was back at the starting gate for a world cup sprint competition. And after racing the 1.4K course in the qualifying, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, she went out for a fourth time in the final — and finished just a quarter second off the podium, in fourth.
And one day after that? Diggins raced a 10K in Lahti, this time finally showing her tired legs in finishing 20th.
One could be forgiven for missing out on Diggins’ post-Olympic races. After all, it’s been a busy couple weeks in the sports world, with 17 days of Olympic competition wrapping up on Feb. 20, then the Paralympic Winter Games kicking off on March 4 for another nine exciting days.
If you looked away, though, you’ve already missed quite a bit.
Erin Jackson competes during the women's 500-meter race at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 13, 2022 in Beijing.
While the Olympic Winter Games naturally are scheduled to take place in the heart of winter, that means the flame goes out with plenty of winter left to embrace. And so for Diggins and many of the other stars of Team USA, the season continues right on.
In fact, Diggins has raced in six world cup events across three countries since Beijing, and on Saturday she posted a third-place finish in a 10K freestyle race in Falun, Sweden, to secure second place in the overall world cup standings. One day later, she joined with Zak Ketterson and fellow Olympians Rosie Brennan and Scott Patterson to win the first-ever world cup mixed team relay event in the final race of the season.
“I can’t think of a more perfect way to end a really awesome year,” Diggins said.
Speedskating Stars Shine Bright
The weekend also brought a stirring conclusion to a memorable long track speedskating season for Team USA.
Just two weeks after the Beijing Games on March 3-6, Olympians Jordan Stolz took fourth and Kimi Goetz fifth in the men’s and women’s sprint standings at the world championships in Hamar, Norway. Meanwhile, Olympians Ethan Cepuran, Emery Lehman and Casey Dawson were among the top 11 in the men’s allround, while Mia Manganello Kilburg was 12th in the women’s competition.
After some of Team USA’s biggest stars from Beijing skipped the world championships, they looked plenty rested at the World Cup Final over the weekend in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Americans reached the podium four times and left with three world cup season titles.
Fresh off becoming the first Black woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal, Erin Jackson continued her 500-meter dominance with two more wins in that event to secure the season title.
Brittany Bowe wrapped up her 1,000-meter season title with a second-place finish in that race just weeks after she won an Olympic bronze medal in the event. Bowe also clinched the season silver medal in the 1,500, while taking second place in one of the 500-meter races this weekend.
Meanwhile, Joey Mantia wrapped up the men’s 1,500-meter title even while finishing 12th on Sunday.
And don’t forget Goetz. A week after her world championships performance she placed among the top-nine in all three distances in Heerenveen, including taking third in the 1,000. She was just off the podium in the season standings for that event in fourth.
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning the women's downhill competition at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on March 16, 2022 in Courchevel, France.
Shiffrin Bounces Back
The Beijing Games didn’t go as Mikaela Shiffrin had hoped, with alpine skiing’s second most decorated woman falling short of the podium in her six events. Just days later, on March 5, she was back in familiar territory on the world cup tour, finishing second in a super-G in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Her hot streak has only continued since then, and on Wednesday she won her first downhill race in more than two years. Since Beijing she’s now raced five teams and finished among the top-four in all but one of them.
River Radamus, who barely missed the podium in Beijing while finishing fourth in the men’s giant slalom and the mixed team event (the latter with Shiffrin), returned to the world cup slopes over the weekend in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, posting top-25 finishes in two giant slaloms there.
Other Winter Sports Fun
Those are just some of the Winter Olympians who have returned to competition since Beijing.
Olympian Mac Forehand placed fourth in the slopestyle skiing world cup Saturday in Tignes, France (a women’s event was canceled due to bad weather). Four-time Olympian Faye Gulini led the American snowboardcross team with a seventh-place finish Saturday in Reiteralm, Austria. Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf was back in action that same day in Chiesa in Valmalenco, Italy, where she took third in the non-Olympic dual moguls event.
All the while, Olympic ski jumper Casey Larson has competed five times since Beijing. Deedra Irwin, whose seventh-place finish in the women’s individual race in Beijing marked the best Olympic finish ever for an American biathlete, has been quite busy herself. She’s raced six times across two world cup stops since the Winter Games.
Still To Come
If you missed out on those events, there’s still time to enjoy some of your favorite Olympic winter athletes in action this winter.
Shiffrin will be going for her fourth career world cup overall title this weekend in Courchevel and Meribel, France. She holds a narrow lead in the standings over Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the defending champ.
This weekend also marks the final world cup races in the careers of biathletes Susan Dunklee and Clare Egan as the tour concludes at Oslo Holmenkollen, Norway.
Plus, the women’s curling world championships open this weekend in Price George, Canada, while the men’s tournament takes place next month in Las Vegas. However, the U.S. is sending new teams to each event, giving the Beijing Olympians a break.
And don’t forget the figure skating world championships next week, with many of the top U.S. skaters from Beijing expected to compete in the event that runs March 23-26 in Montpellier, France. The provisional U.S. roster features most of the group that competed in Beijing, including recently crowned ice dance bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.