Jessie Diggins essentially wrapped up a spot on her third U.S. Olympic team by earning her first cross-country skiing World Cup victory of the season on Tuesday.
Diggins won a freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, to open the annual Tour de Ski, a Tour de France-like stage race that takes place over the next week across Central Europe.
Last year, Diggins became the first North American to win the Tour de Ski, though some of the world’s best sat out. Some stars are again passing on this year’s Tour, including World Cup overall leader Maja Dahlqvist of Sweden and Norwegian standout Therese Johaug.
Diggins, a 2018 Olympic team sprint champion with the now-retired Kikkan Randall, is nonetheless a legit contender to win the U.S.’ second individual Olympic cross-country skiing medal come February. It would be the nation’s first in an individual women’s race.
Diggins handed Johaug a rare defeat in a 10km last January, then placed fourth in the distance at the world championships in March. Those were freestyle races. The 10km at the Olympics will be in the classic skiing technique, where Diggins is not as strong.
However, she now has two podiums in four freestyle sprints this World Cup season. The freestyle sprint is on the Olympic program in February.
Diggins will soon become the first American cross-country skier to mathematically earn an Olympic spot.
Qualification criteria for up to the first six of eight U.S. female skiers is set at a top eight finish in certain World Cup races, with the tiebreakers being skiers’ highest finishes.
Diggins is the lone American to place in the top two of a World Cup this season (which she’s done three times), and there are seven World Cup races left before the qualifying cutoff.
The Tour de Ski continues Wednesday. A full broadcast schedule is here.
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