Diggins makes history, clinches second overall World Cup title

By the time she began her post-race interviews, Jessie Diggins had lost track of her trophy. She had cradled the crystal globe on the World Cup podium shortly after locking up the overall championship Sunday, then handed it off for safekeeping.

Diggins wasn't worried about the hardware. As much as the Afton native appreciated the globe — and the history that came with it — that wasn't the prize she cherished the most on the season's final day. After wrapping up the schedule with a victory in Falun, Sweden, Diggins said the real reward was simply making it through the most difficult stretch of her World Cup career.

Last fall, Diggins feared the return of an eating disorder might disrupt her race schedule. She responded with her best season ever at the top level of cross-country skiing. Diggins finished with a career-high 2,746 points to stave off Sweden's Linn Svahn for the overall title, becoming the first American to earn two World Cup overall championships.

Diggins' victory Sunday in a 20-kilometer mass start freestyle gave her a 175-point margin over Svahn, who had crept to within 41 points two days earlier. Diggins also won her second distance crown, finishing 224 points ahead of Victoria Carl of Germany.

"My only goal was to have the most fun [Sunday]," Diggins said to reporters in Falun. "I just wanted to go ski a brave race and ski hard and put my whole heart out there.

"I'm really proud of how this season ended. I'm more proud of my team for being there for me. It's been a hard year. That's why it's so special that we got through it together."

Diggins won her first overall title in 2021, joining 1982 champion Bill Koch as the only Americans to earn that distinction. She led the standings throughout this season, making history along the way.

Her six victories and 12 podium finishes in individual events set U.S. single-season records. Diggins added a second Tour de Ski title in January and now has 21 career World Cup victories, with 60 top-three finishes.

In September, Diggins announced a relapse of her eating disorder after 12 years of recovery. She went public with the news in the hope it would help others struggling with mental health issues, but she acknowledged Sunday that it put her under a spotlight that was uncomfortable at times.

"I've felt a lot of pressure to show I'm OK," she said. "I've put pressure on myself to keep working hard to be OK. It's not easy when your brain is kind of a messy place sometimes, and you feel like the whole world is watching you figure it out, just doing your best every day."

She entered Sunday's finale with a 75-point lead over Svahn. Diggins kept the mood light by swiping gold glitter on the cheeks of several competitors, as well as her own.

Armed with speedy skis, she closed with a rush to finish in 51 minutes, 53 seconds, beating Norway's Heidi Weng by 0.9 seconds. Svahn never challenged and finished 26th.

After the race, Diggins led an American huddle to celebrate the teammates who lifted her up all season. She was grateful to be healthy enough to race in last month's Loppet Cup at Theodore Wirth Park, which she called the highlight of her career. Though the two crystal globes were "really cool," she said, they felt like a bonus.

"I could not have done this alone,'' Diggins said. "I got a lot of help from a lot of people when I was having a tough time. I think that's why it was so special to have made it through the season. That was the real victory."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the event. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.