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Jessie Diggins fourth at world champs; Therese Johaug wins by historic margin

Kikkan Randall reflects on how the U.S. women's cross country ski team has grown since the 2005 world championships and how finding success in the smallest places made all the difference.

American cross-country skier Jessie Diggins took fourth in the world championships 10km freestyle, her best individual event, behind historically dominant Norwegian Therese Johaug on Tuesday in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Johaug, now a 12-time world champion, prevailed by 54.2 seconds over Swede Frida Karlsson in near-60-degree conditions.

“I think I had the day of my season this year,” Johaug said, according to the International Ski Federation.

Another Swede, Ebba Andersson, took bronze, 5.1 seconds faster than Diggins in the interval-start race.

Johaug, a 32-year-old who missed the 2018 Olympics due to a ban over lip cream, won seven golds in her last eight world championships races (with a silver in the other) dating to 2015.

Her winning margin on Tuesday was greater than the margin separating second place from 11th place. It marked the largest margin in a world championships women’s 10km since 1962, according to Gracenote.

Diggins, who in 2018 won the U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country skiing title with now-retired Kikkan Randall in the team sprint, came into Tuesday as a medal contender.

“It’s no secret that I really struggle, and these are not my temperatures. I’m more of a Minnesota winter athlete,” the Afton native Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard, after racing in a suit that had short sleeves and cut off above her knee. “I kept pushing, even when I felt like I was going to fold in half and pass out.”

In the most recent World Cup 10km freestyle on Jan. 29, Diggins handed Johaug her first straight-up defeat in an international distance freestyle race in nearly five years.

Diggins took silver in the 10km freestyle the last time it was contested at worlds in 2015.

She owns four world championships medals overall, most by an American, heading into Thursday’s relay, where the U.S. looks for its first-ever medal in the event.

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