US women compete for first Olympic cross-country skiing medal

The U.S. women’s cross-country ski team began its quest for its first medal in Olympic history with the 15km skiathlon Saturday in PyeongChang.

The U.S. team was denied a medal, despite a strong showing by American Jessie Diggins, whose fifth place finish was the best ever in an Olympic cross-country event by an American woman.

Diggins finished 14.7 seconds behind Charlotte Kalla of Sweden. Kalla pulled ahead late in the race finishing with a time of 40:44.9 to win the first gold medal of the 2018 games.

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen finished with the silver 7.8 seconds behind Kalla for her 11th Olympic medal. Bjoergen has won three gold medals in each of the past two Winter Olympics. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski took the bronze with a time of 40:55.0.

Diggins, 26, was with the leaders most of the race. The Afton, Minnesota native is back for her second Olympics. She also comes into the PyeongChang games peaking at the right time.

She won her final World Cup race before the Olympics, a 10km freestyle mass start on Jan. 28 and is currently third in the overall World Cup standings.

Other Team USA finishers included; Caitlin Patterson, 34th place in a time of 44:14.9, Kikkin Randall finished 40th at 44:47.2 and Rosie Brennan, 58th at 47:36.0.

No American woman has ever won an Olympic cross-country skiing medal and the U.S. overall hasn’t won an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing since Bill Koch won 30km silver in 1976.