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Jessie Diggins makes more history with silver in cross-country mass start

An exhausted Jessie Diggins begins to celebrate her silver medal in the 30k mass start cross-country race on Sunday in Zhangjiakou, China.Maddie Meyer/Getty

South Boston’s Jessie Diggins, who earlier in the Beijing Games won the first-ever women’s individual cross-country sprint medal for the United States, added a silver in the 30-kilometer mass start on Sunday — the first-ever by an American woman in an individual distance race.

Diggins, who splits time between South Boston and Stratton, Vt., when not on tour, took over second some 6½ miles into the grueling race of nearly 19 miles and held it, ultimately finishing in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 37.3 seconds. That was 1:43.3 behind winner Therese Johaug of Norway, her third gold in Beijing. Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen took bronze.

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“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my whole life. Especially because I had food poisoning 30 hours ago, which is why I thought I was going to die at the finish line,” an emotional Diggins said on NBC, crediting the vocal support of fellow members of Team USA for powering her forward. “My legs were cramping the last [10½ miles]. I don’t know how I made it to the finish, but it was amazing. ... When it got really hard, everyone was just breathing with me.”

Making history is nothing new for the 30-year-old, who teamed with Kikkan Randall to win America’s first-ever cross country gold in the team sprint four years ago. Diggins also became the first-ever American overall World Cup champion last year. Sunday’s event was her fifth of these Games, having finished fifth in the team sprint, sixth in both the 4x5k relay and 15-kilometer skiathlon, and eighth in the 10-kilometer classic.

Fellow American Rosie Brennan, who teamed with Diggins in the team sprint, finished sixth Sunday, just about five seconds out of the medals.