USA women’s cross-country ready to rise from rock bottom

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Kikkan Randall remembers rock bottom.

It came in the 4x5km relay at the 2005 World Nordic Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, detailed in “World Class: The Making of the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team.”

The U.S. was in last place of 15 nations after the first leg, nearly three minutes behind the leaders. The team’s second leg, skiing with a reported respiratory infection, wasn’t much faster.

Randall never got the tag to ski her anchor leg.

“We were pulled out of the race because we were about to be lapped,” Randall said last year.

The U.S. women’s cross-country team, after a decade-long climb from an international afterthought, will ski for its first Olympic medal Saturday in the 4x5km relay. If they don’t get it there, another chance in the two-woman team sprint comes four days later.

Americans had outside medal hopes in the first three individual events here this week – the 15km skiathlon, the classic sprint and the 10km freestyle – and recorded decent finishes.

Jessie Diggins had two fifths and a sixth, missing a medal in Thursday’s 10km freestyle by 3.3 seconds.

She split three seconds faster than joint bronze medalist Marit Bjorgen at 9.3 kilometers, but Diggins “completely locked up” on a climb in the last half-mile.

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