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Jessie Diggins, bloodied and missing a glove, finishes second in World Cup


Injured Jessie Diggins of USA (L) reacts with Sophia Laukli of USA after competing in women’s 20 km mass start cross-country skiing freestyle competition at the FIS World Cup Ruka Nordic Opening event in Kuusamo, Finland, on November 26, 2023. (Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT (Photo by HEIKKI SAUKKOMAA/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)

Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

One look at Jessie Diggins’ face after the race, and it was clear that her legend grew on Sunday.

Diggins, the best U.S. cross-country skier in history, finished second in a 20km freestyle in Ruka, Finland, in temperatures hovering around zero degrees just outside the Arctic Circle.

That’s not out of the ordinary. Diggins has been a fixture on World Cup podiums for 12 years and is known for braving fierce weather.

But the blood surrounding the right side of Diggins’ mouth was unique.

She lost her right ski pole and glove with about one mile left. In being handed a new pole, it initially struck her in the face, causing a bleeding cut (video here). She skied the final three minutes with one glove.

Diggins nearly pulled off a victory after it all, crossing three tenths of a second behind Swede Moa Ilar. Diggins’ countrywoman Rosie Brennan placed third, a day after she was runner-up in a 10km classic race.

Diggins took part in the podium ceremony and said afterward that she was fine.

“Finished the race with a bloody face, spare pole, no glove and no feeling in my hand or legs!” was posted on her social media. “That was one I had to get gritty as all hell for, and I can’t say thank you enough to my team and the FIS team for taking such good care of me after!”

Diggins’ effort Sunday was reminiscent of another runner-up finish: her 2022 Olympic 30km silver medal. On that February Sunday, she fell during the race, trekked solo for 12 miles amid single-digit temperatures and a food poisoning bout that had bedridden her the day before.

Diggins went into this season having shared that she overcame a relapse of an eating disorder during the summer. For years, she has raced with the words “The Emily Program” written across her headband, and did so again Sunday.

The program is a national leader in eating disorder treatment. Diggins, in her high school graduation year of 2010, did what she called the scariest thing in the world, calling the program to get treatment that saved her life.

“I race with my heart on my sleeve, and it’s important for me to also wear my past and my present out in the open, because this shouldn’t be something I ever have to hide,” was posted on Diggins’ social media last week.