Jessie Diggins slides into the podium at the Nove Mesto World Cup relay last season. (Getty Images/AFP-Michal Cizek)
LAHTI, Finland (Mar. 1, 2017) - The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team has announced its team that will compete Thursday in the women’s 4x5k relay where the Americans are expected to be contenders. Three of the four team members have won medals in the first week of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti.
Leading off on the first of two classical technique legs will be Kikkan Randall (Anchorage). She will hand off to Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA). Both come out of the APU Nordic program in Anchorage. Randall won bronze in the freestyle sprint last Thursday while Bjornsen was on the bronze medal-winning classic sprint team
Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT) of Burke Mountain Academy will lead off the first of two freestyle technique, or skating, legs. She will hand off to Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) of Stratton Mountain School who will anchor the relay. Diggins has won two medals in the championships - silver in the individual freestyle sprint and bronze with Bjornsen in the classic team sprint.
Kikkan Randall, Sophie Bjornsen, Liz Stephen and Jessie Diggins stood on the relay podium in Lillehammer in the 2013-14 season. (Getty Images-Ragnar Singsaas)
"This is a team of relay veterans, all of whom know both the 5k distance and the demands of their specific legs very well,” said coach Matt Whitcomb. “We know the field, understand the various scenarios that could play out during each leg and are very confident in the fitness and experience of this team.”
The team had a final training session in the Lahti Stadium Wednesday to prepare and test skis.
“Our technicians pumped a lot of confidence into our system with outrageous classic skis in training today,” added Whitcomb. “Liz and Jessie have some great skate skis prepared for this warmer condition.”
The USA has never won a relay medal in World Championships or Olympics, but was fourth in both the 2015 and 2013 Worlds. Norway has won the last three titles.
Five weeks ago, the USA finished fourth in a World Cup relay in Ulricehamn, Sweden. Last season the Americans were second and third in the two World Cup relays.
“This is a relay team that knows how to rally,” said Whitcomb. “We are ready."
The event will be streamed live on NBC Sports beginning at 8:00 a.m. EST.