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Diggins clinging to World Cup overall lead entering closing weekend

Not so long ago — early February, to be precise — Jessie Diggins led the World Cup overall standings by more than 300 points. The Afton native seemed well on her way to a second overall crown, another historic achievement in American cross-country skiing.

Diggins is still at the top, but a late surge by Linn Svahn has set the stage for high drama at this weekend's World Cup finals. The Swedish sprint specialist has cut Diggins' overall lead to 102 points. With the season's final three races on Svahn's home snow, including a classic sprint to kick things off Friday, the race for the crystal globe could come down to the last stride.

The setup

Falun, Sweden, is host to the season finale. After Friday's classic sprint, there is a 10-kilometer individual start classic on Saturday and a 20k mass start freestyle Sunday.

Diggins leads the overall standings with 2,490 points, the most she's ever earned in her career. Svahn is second with 2,388. Diggins also tops the distance standings with a 177-point margin over Sweden's Ebba Andersson, while Svahn leads the sprint standings by 176 points over Norway's Kristine Stavaas Skistad.

What to look for

Svahn is riding a hot streak. She's won five sprint finals since Dec. 30 and has not placed outside the top 12 in any race since Jan. 7. Her best chance to catch Diggins will be in Friday's sprint, when she could earn 115 points by winning both the qualifying and the final.

Diggins has a career-best five victories and 11 podium finishes this season but has cooled off a bit. She's been on the podium once in her past nine races, taking third in the Feb. 18 10k at Wirth Park.

Diggins is at her best in freestyle distance races, putting Sunday's finale firmly in her wheelhouse. She's raced a pair of 20k freestyles this season, finishing first and second. She'll be aiming to pick up some points in the classic sprint and 10k, holding off Svahn as much as possible, then relying on her fitness and grit to carry her home.

What Jessie says

In an Instagram post Thursday, Diggins acknowledged the excitement around her bid for a second overall title. She won her first in 2021 and is the only American woman to earn a World Cup overall crown in cross-country.

She also noted how difficult this season has been. Diggins revealed in September that her eating disorder had returned. As she worked to recover, she wasn't sure how it would affect her racing schedule. She's had her best season ever, thanks to the support of family, friends and teammates.

In her post, Diggins said she has three goals this weekend: to appreciate being able to race, to show gratitude to her team and to find the joy in racing.

"All year, my focus has simply been to do the best that I can in each moment," Diggins wrote. "The biggest victory for me from this whole season has been getting to the start line."