Jessie Diggins wrapped up her hometown World Cup weekend with a third-place finish in the 10K race

On the eve of the Loppet Cup, Jessie Diggins was asked what standing at the top of the podium means to her. Despite the emotions surrounding her first World Cup in her home country, she wanted to keep the pressure low.

“If my priorities were clear, it wouldn't mean anything different than a recent death,” the Afton native said. “The real win was being here.”

She felt the same way on Sunday, after finishing third in the women's 10K freestyle in the event's final race. Sweden's Jonna Sandling took the top prize for the second day in a row, scintillating over the Theodor Wirth Park racetrack to add the 10km title to her freestyle victory on Saturday. Sandling finished the race in 22 minutes and 38.9 seconds, followed by compatriot Frida Karlsson and Diggins.

Only Minnesotans stood in the way of the Swedish invasion. Diggins moved into third at the 3.3k mark and held steady, finishing 3.2 seconds behind fourth-place Lin Svan. The podium helped Diggins maintain her lead over Svahn in winning the overall World Cup title, giving her a 257-point advantage with four stops remaining in the season.

None of that was at the forefront of Diggins' mind. Earlier in the day, she helped lift Gus Schumacher onto the shoulders of his American teammates after his historic win in the men's 10K, when he became only the third American man to win the World Cup.

In the afterglow of her own race, Diggins' teammates returned the favor, lifting her up to blow kisses in front of a crowd of 20,000 people.

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“The whole weekend was the dream of my career,” Diggins said. “It hardly seems real.

“Everyone came ready to celebrate skiing in this country. This is something I've been working toward for a long time. I've never been prouder, perhaps of anything.”

Race results: 10 thousand men | 10 kilos for women

Diggins was particularly pleased with how fans received the first World Cup held in the United States since 2001. A total of 40,000 people attended the two-day race. They roamed the autograph areas, treated the athletes like celebrities and created what many skaters called a “wall of noise” around the court.

The Lobet Foundation organized the races, and executive director Claire Wilson said officials at the International Ski and Snowboard Federation – which oversees the World Cup – were impressed. Given the enthusiastic comments from athletes and fans, she expects the Lobet Foundation to discuss hosting another World Cup in the future.

“It was a great weekend,” Wilson said. “We're not a big organization, but we've shown we can do it. This aligns with our mission of connecting people to the outdoors and building community.”

The Loppet Cup concluded on another bluebird day, with the weather perfect for skating or watching. Schumacher started the day with a huge surprise. The men's race was won by a native of Madison, Wisconsin, who grew up in Alaska, with a time of 20:52.7 minutes, beating men's World Cup points leader Harald Östberg Amundsen of Norway by 4.4 seconds.

Diggins was among the first to embrace Schumacher. An hour before her own race, she cried over his victory, adding another layer of emotion to an already packed weekend.

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She has said for months that her only goal in Minneapolis is to have fun, making sure she's not so focused that she doesn't fully absorb the World Cup that has been years in the making. On Saturday, Diggins finished fourth in the freestyle event. She returned on Sunday to even louder cheers for her signature race.

The 10km was a playoff start and Sandling, 38th in the starting order, posted the fastest time at each checkpoint to set a high goal. Diggins started 58th. By the time she took the course, it had become sluggish in the bright sunshine, getting a little slower with each of the three laps.

“My strategy was to do my best all the time and try to finish the race with about 2k to go,” Diggins said. “And after that, I just hope the crowd takes me back to the finish line. And they did.”

Diggins said the roar that followed her through the course was the loudest she had ever heard. When she crossed the finish line in 23:10.7, she collapsed on the snow, but was still smiling.

Diggins praised the fans for embracing all athletes, no matter what colors they wear. Amundsen paid the ultimate compliment. He said the number of spectators at Wirth Park outnumbered those at events held at his home ground in Norway, a cross-country skiing centre.

“On the longer slope, it was absolutely crazy,” he said. “I couldn't hear myself think or breathe. I really want to skate in America again. Maybe next year.”

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Diggins wasn't thinking that far. On Sunday, she wanted to stay completely in the moment, absorbing every last memory.

“My only goal was to enjoy it, do my best and leave everything on track,” she said. “And it did. It sure did.”

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