La Velle E. Neal III
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ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA — When Jessie Diggins began the anchor leg of the women's 4x5-kilometer relay on Saturday, Team USA trailed the leaders by 57.6 seconds.

That's a lot of lead to bite into. Diggins is good. But that good?

Germany and Russia were battling for first place. There was a second pack, closer to Diggins by around 30 seconds, of Finland, Norway and Sweden — a neighborhood brawl for bronze between three Nordic countries and cross-country skiing powers.

So Diggins, from Afton, put herself in lurking mode. She skied hard and was ready to pounce if any shenanigans broke out among the group to give her a sniff of a chance at stealing a bronze.

"I thought, you know, if I get lucky and they're messing around with tactics, there's a chance I can glom on the back," Diggins said.

The Nordic triumvirate didn't yield any ground. Diggins eventually backed off full throttle.

"Unfortunately, they did not [back off] as much as I had hoped, and then I definitely paid for it the second lap," she said. "I could not feel my legs at all, but I was really happy with it because I was like, you know what, you got to try."

Diggins on Saturday skied in her fourth event of the Beijing Olympics, with two more to go. In a sport in which competitors often collapse from exhaustion at the finish line, Diggins' supreme endurance and recovery powers are on display for the world to see.

So is her unselfishness. She could have tried to preserve something for her final races, but if the door cracked open for a medal, she was going to try to put her team on the podium. They spend so much time traveling to events and spending time together that it can be hard for someone like Diggins to put herself first knowing what the team has invested.

"I live for relay day," Diggins said. "I've been looking forward to this all year."

The relay team finished a respectable sixth Saturday, completing the course in 55 minutes 9.2 seconds — 1 minute, 8 seconds from reaching the podium. Team USA, which started in row 2, finished fifth in the event four years ago. Diggins is the only returnee from the team, joined this time by Hailey Swirbul of El Jebel, Colo.; Rosie Brennan of Park City, Utah; and Novie McCabe of Winthrop, Wash.

Team USA got as high as fifth during the race but could not link up with the lead pack.

"I'm really, really proud of this team," Diggins said. "Every single one of these girls went out and skied so hard and had gutsy races, and we gave it everything we had. Some days, it ends up with the results you like and some days it doesn't.

"Either way, all you can do is go out there as hard and as smart as you can and this team did that."

Russia and Germany duked it out for most of the race, with Russia winning in 53:41. Sweden, behind an incredible final leg from Jonna Sundling, finished third in 54:01.7 to claim the bronze. Team USA members remained on the course to cheer for Germany, a team the Americans trained with during the summer. The Germans briefly led during the final lap but relinquished it on one of the final hill climbs.

Diggins' excellent adventure is more than halfway to the end. She finished sixth in the 15k skiathlon last Saturday, picked up the bronze in the freestyle sprint on Tuesday and was eighth in 10k classic on Thursday.

Diggins' excellent adventure is more than halfway to the end. She finished sixth in the 15k skiathlon the previous Saturday, picked up the bronze in the freestyle sprint on Tuesday and was eighth in the 10k classic Thursday.

On Wednesday, she will be part of the classic team sprint, in which she helped Team USA strike gold in four years ago in Pyeongchang. Next Sunday, the adventure ends with the 30k freestyle.

When asked if she's got two more races in her, she didn't hesitate to respond.

"I'm stoked," she said. "Bring it!"