Norway humbles rivals in cross country relay


LES SAISIES, France -- Vegard Ulvang bagged his third gold medal of the Winter Olympics yesterday as Norway gave its rivals another lesson in cross country skiing.

The Norwegians' victory in the men's 4x10-kilometer relay was so crushing that anchorman Bjorn Daehlie, winner of the 15K race Saturday, humiliated the rest of the field by skiing across the finish line backward and waving the Norwegian flag.

It was the first time Norway had triumphed in the event since 1968 and the victory made Ulvang the first Norwegian to take three cross country golds at one Games, a fact largely due to the increased number of men's races this year.

Italy, the team Norway had most feared before the start, took the silver 1 minute, 26.7 seconds behind.

Finland won an unexpected bronze medal when Jari Isometsa squeezed across the finish line just two-tenths of a second ahead of Sweden's Torgny Mogren.

The race was watched by King Harald of Norway and King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, who were near each other in the stands the entire race.

Ulvang, winner of last week's 30K and 10K races, built up a 26.4 second lead at the end of his classic style leg and was easily the fastest man on the trail.

The cross country program ends Saturday with the blue-ribbon event: the 50K freestyle race.

Ulvang said a hip injury could force him to drop the 50K. The Norwegian said he would decide by Thursday.



Japan wins first gold; U.S. fades to eighth

COURCHEVEL, France -- Japan won its first Winter Olympic gold medal in 20 years when the men's Nordic combined team held off Norway and Austria in the closing 30K cross country relay.

The United States started the day fourth after the ski jumping portion of the event but faded in the cross country and finished eighth.

The Japanese team entered the race with a big lead after the ski jumping competition, and finished the three-man relay in 1:23:36.5, 1:26.4 ahead of Norway. Austria was close behind.

Japan's last gold medal dated from the Sapporo Winter Games in 1972, when Yukio Kasaya won the ski jumping competition.


World champ Daigle eliminated after fall

ALBERTVILLE, France -- Salvia Daigle, a four-time world champion from Canada, was eliminated in the preliminary heats of the Olympic women's 500-meter short-track speed skating.

Daigle, among the gold medal favorites, fell behind in her three-women heat after clipping skates with American Cathy Turner and was eliminated after finishing last.

Turner, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., won the heat in 47.69 seconds to advance with 15 other skaters to Saturday's semifinals. The women's finals and men's 5,000-meter relay finals also will be skated that night.

Willy O'Reilly, of Great Britain, the men's 1,000-meter world champion, won his heat in 1:37.79 seconds. O'Reilly won the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, when short track was a demonstration sport.

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