FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, is brought to you by the generous support of L.L. Bean, now featuring a complete line of Kikkan Randall training wear.
FALUN, Sweden — Caitlin Gregg spent the longest time of anybody in the leader’s seat on Tuesday at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and ultimately shared the podium with her U.S. teammate, Jessie Diggins, in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle individual start.
Amid wet, heavy snowfall, the two finished second to Swedish world champion Charlotte Kalla, with Diggins bumping Gregg from the lead by 5.9 seconds then Kalla unseating Diggins by 41 seconds for the win in 25:08.8.
Norway failed to make the top 20, with Heidi Weng as the top Norwegian in 22nd. Two of her teammates, race favorites Therese Johaug and Marit Bjørgen placed 27th and 31st, respectively.
At the finish, Diggins and Gregg embraced, with Diggins — the 2013 team-sprint world champion with Kikkan Randall — falling to her knees in tears.
For Gregg, 34, this is her third World Championships after competing in 2007 and 2009. Her previous best result was 47th in the 30 k freestyle in 2009 in Liberec, Czech Republic.
“To finish and then watching everyone come in, I started to realize how good of a race it was,” Gregg recalled afterward. “I crossed the line, and thought that was a good effort. I knew my skis were really, really good. I could tell based on the girls around me, so I thought, ‘Well, the techs and coaches, they have taken care of everything up to now, I just have to drive the skis into the finish line.’ … I was just so excited just to get to race today, and this, I think, is just going to launch the next level of skiing.”
Diggins, 23, placed 23rd in the 10 k freestyle at 2013 World Championships for her best individual result at worlds.
“I still cannot believe that this is happening, it feels like it is still sinking in,” Diggins said. “It’s just taken so many people to get us here. It took an amazing team of people here at the World Championships, testing so hard to make us have such fast skis, and this team of girls that we have been traveling around the world with. I feel like the podium doesn’t just belong to us, it’s like skiing in the United States that’s there on the podium today. It’s just this unreal thing, and I’m so happy.”
“I’m just trying to avoid people so I don’t get pinched and wake up from this dream,” U.S. women’s coach Matt Whitcomb said. “It’s completely surreal and yet it happens because these are two fantastic skaters that can race in championships and made the best of what the day had to throw at us. They ended up just skiing perfectly.”
“I’m just trying to avoid people so I don’t get pinched and wake up from this dream.” — U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb
All four U.S. women placed in the top 15 on Tuesday, with Liz Stephen finishing 10th, 1:06.4 behind Kalla and Randall taking 15th (+1:25.2). Emily Nishikawa was the top Canadian in 30th, 3.1 seconds ahead of Bjørgen in 31st. Perianne Jones was another 3.1 seconds back in 32nd, and Canada’s third woman, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt placed 52nd (+4:05.4).
Stay tuned for a complete report.