VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (Feb. 28) - Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) skied powerful skating legs to lead the U.S. Ski Team to an historical best ever finish in the women's relay at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme. Skiing anchor, Diggins dug deep to pass Finland for fourth in the final few hundred meters. Norway ran away with the gold - it's third straight at Olympics or World Championships - with a 26 second win over Sweden. Russia came from behind on the final lap to take bronze.
Liz Stephen skied a strong first skate leg to set the USA up for an historic best ever fourth place finish in the women's relay at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. (U.S. Ski Team - Sarah Brunson)
We hoped for a medal today but fourth feels like a medal to me today. Everyone skied their heart out today. Jessie could have easily decided that fifth was good enough. But on that last climb she decided 'I'm getting fourth,' and to me that's a medal.
It went really well for us as a team today. My leg was good. It was fun to be handed off in a pack like that and just have people in front to go catch. The body showed up and felt good today and I was able to do what I wanted to do out there.
Initially I was so disappointed in myself for losing the medal because we were catching on. It was really hard to not be able to stay with the Russian but I tried my best and I have to be satisfied with that - I couldn't have pushed any harder.
It's hard to come up with a real solid strategy in the relay because you never know maybe you'll be in a pack, maybe you'll be chasing someone down, maybe you'll be by yourself. But I watched these girls doing a really great job - I was really proud of them - I knew I had to give it everything I got. I was going to try to stay ahead of Russia but the anchor leg was too strong for me. But fortunately I was able to catch Finland at the top of the last hill for fourth.
Fourth place is huge - we cut our finish more than in half from two years ago. This was my first World Cup (World Championship) relay so it was fun to join this amazing crew. I was nervous but I kept telling myself it's just a 5k and it's my favorite race.
We were so strong the other day. Unfortunately I couldn't find the same form today - my leg put us into a difficult position.
STATISTICS (courtesy FIS and Infostrada)
Best Previous Relay Finishes
5 - 2002 Olympics, Salt Lake City
5 - 1950 World Championships, Lake Placid
4 - 2013 World Championships, Val di Fiemme (Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins)
7 - 1984 Olympics, Sarajevo
7 - 1980 Olympics/World Championships, Lake Placid