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    Jessie Diggins picked to carry US flag at Olympic Closing Ceremony

    Jessie Diggins.
    Florian Choblet/AFP/Getty Images
    ‘‘This is such an incredible honor for me,’’ US cross-country skiier Jessie Diggins said.

    PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Jessie Diggins has one more big Olympic moment awaiting her.

    Diggins — who thrust herself across the finish line to give the Americans a dazzling gold medal in the cross-country team sprint — was selected as the United States’ flagbearer for Sunday night’s Closing Ceremony at the PyeongChang Games. She’s the first cross-country skier to carry the US flag into an Olympic ceremony since Bill Koch did the honors at Albertville’s opening in 1992.

    Retiring luge star and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin carried the US flag into the opening of the PyeongChang Games two weeks ago. That pick was followed by some curious remarks by speedskater Shani Davis, who lost to Hamlin in a tiebreaker.

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    Diggins’s moment, however, will likely lead to no argument. All US Olympians in PyeongChang were eligible to vote for the closing flagbearer.

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    ‘‘This is such an incredible honor for me,’’ Diggins said. ‘‘I’m really humbled and moved that the athletes voted for me. It’s so inspiring to feel the support and cheering from everyone. The coolest thing for me about the Games has been getting to meet other athletes on Team USA, and getting to cheer them on at their events and learn about what they do. I have so much respect and admiration for everybody here and am beyond honored to be able to lead us out of these Games.’’

    Jessie Diggins (left) gave the US an unprecedented gold medal in the cross-country team sprint.
    Dmitri Lovetsky/AP
    Jessie Diggins (left) gave the US an unprecedented gold medal in the cross-country team sprint.

    It’s the first time women have been picked as US flagbearers for both the opening and closing of an Olympics since 2004, when basketball’s Dawn Staley led the Americans into the Athens Games and soccer’s Mia Hamm carried the flag out. The last time US women were picked for both roles at a Winter Games was in 1976, when skier Cynthia Nelson and speedskater Sheila Young were the selections.

    And it seems fitting that US women were tabbed twice in Pyeongchang.

    The US has 21 medals so far in and women have claimed 14 of them — 12 on their own, two on mixed teams in figure skating. Many of the most spectacular moments by Americans in PyeongChang came from women’s events, including the hockey team winning a shootout to finally beat Canada for gold and, of course, Diggins’s dive to victory.

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    ‘‘Jessie’s breakthrough performances here in PyeongChang have been inspirational and historic, and her success is representative of years of teamwork and determination from all our athletes,’’ US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said. ‘‘I am proud that she has been recognized.’’

    American women have clearly led their country’s gold rush in PyeongChang.

    Including the mixed wins, US women have gold medals in seven events so far. There’s never been a Winter Games where American women reached the top of the medal podium more often; they got five in 1992, five more in 2002, and were golden in five events again in Sochi four years ago.

    ‘‘I think everyone in the world knows there’s still room for growth for women in sports and women in business or all walks of life,’’ US women’s hockey gold medalist Meghan Duggan said after her team topped Canada for the Olympic title. ‘‘We’re proud to be women.’’

    Diggins trains with the Stratton Mountain School Elite team and recently purchased a home in Vermont.

    Retiring luge star and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin carried the US flag into the opening of the PyeongChang Games two weeks ago.
    Harry How/Getty Images
    Retiring luge star and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin carried the US flag into the opening of the PyeongChang Games two weeks ago.

    Vonn, Shiffrin offer takes

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    Mikaela Shiffrin is not quite convinced Lindsey Vonn’s Olympic career is done.

    ‘‘Whenever I hear anybody say something about this,’’ Shiffrin said Friday, ‘‘it’s like, ‘most likely,’ ‘probably,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘we'll see,’ ‘not sure.’ I'm like, ‘Knowing Lindsey, I don’t believe her.’ ’’

    And with that, Shiffrin let out a big laugh.

    She is, without a doubt, the heir apparent to Vonn as the leader of US ski racing. They were the only two members of the country’s Alpine team to earn a medal in PyeongChang — and the only two to hold news conferences a day after the sport’s last two individual events.

    First came Vonn, 33, wearing her downhill bronze medal. After she left the room, it was time for Shiffrin, 22, whose gold from the giant slalom and silver from the combined dangled from her neck.

    Vonn spent much of her session taking questions about her, um, extensive experience — ‘‘You’re not getting any younger,’’ was the way one reporter put it, to which the skier replied with a smile, ‘‘Come right out and say it, why don’t you!’’ — and the emotions of her (presumably) last Olympics.

    Then Shiffrin discussed what she called the frustration of dealing with schedule changes that contributed to a fourth-place finish in her top event, the slalom, and forced her to enter only three of five races.

    When asked about being Vonn’s successor, she was deferential.

    ‘‘I don’t necessarily feel like I'm taking over something for the sport. I don’t know if I could fill Lindsey’s shoes, the way that she has worn them,’’ Shiffrin said. ‘‘I'm going to do my best to help the sport grow in whatever way that I can. The best way that I can do that, as far as I see right now, is just to ski my best and to keep taking ski racing to a new level.’’

    Vonn said the woman who took the gold in the downhill, good friend Sofia Goggia of Italy, wrote a note trying to lobby for a return in 2022.

    ‘‘I told her . . . if I physically could continue for four years, then I probably would, as long as I considered myself still a competitor,’’ Vonn said. ‘‘But four years is a really long time. I told her that. She said she’s going to keep trying to convince me.’’

    Will Lindsey Vonn commit to competing at the 2022 Olympics? Even she doesn’t know.
    Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
    Will Lindsey Vonn commit to competing at the 2022 Olympics? Even she doesn’t know.

    Curlers bumped up

    Norway’s mixed doubles curling team will be presented Saturday night with the bronze medal that was stripped from the Russian team. The International Olympic Committee said in a Twitter post that Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten will receive their medals at the medals plaza in PyeongChang. Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his medal on Thursday after admitting to a doping violation during the Games. He tested positive for meldonium after placing third in mixed doubles with his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova. The Norwegian pair left the Games following their fourth-place finish last week, after an 8-4 to the Russians . . . South Korea advanced to the gold-medal game in women’s curling by beating Japan, 8-7, in 11 ends. The win clinched the first curling medal in Korean history. South Korea will play Sweden for the gold medal on Sunday. Japan will play Britain on Saturday night for third place. The Swedish women advanced with a 10-5 victory. South Korea beat Sweden, 7-6, during pool play.

    Political message

    Ivanka Trump told South Korea’s president that she will use her visit to the Winter Olympics to advocate maximum pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear program. The daughter of President Trump is leading the US delegation at the Closing Ceremony. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, highlighted at a banquet at the presidential compound how the Olympics have served as a vehicle for dialogue between the two Koreas. A high-level North Korean delegation will also attend the Closing Ceremony, but the South Korean government said it’s unlikely Ivanka Trump will meet the North Koreans . . . Austrian snowboarder Markus Schairer, who broke his neck in a crash at the Olympics last week, is considering a return to the sport. ‘‘It’s the easiest way to get healthy again,’’ Schairer said about a possible comeback. ‘‘But it’s way too early to take that decision now.’’ Schairer, 30, underwent surgery on the fractured fifth vertebrae in his neck in an Austrian hospital on Monday, four days after he slammed into the snow on his back. He lost control in the air on the final jump of the downhill course during the Olympic snowboardcross quarterfinals. ‘‘I am glad and thankful that everything went well,’’ Schairer said about the surgery. The three-time Olympian is expected to need three months to recover.