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    Wednesday, February 18, 1998

    Scandinavians monopolize men's biathlon sprint

     NOZAWA ONSEN, Japan (AP) -- Ole Einar Bjoerndalen grew up in a Norwegian village where biathlon was just about the only fun boys could have. Today, for the swift sharpshooter, the fun turned into gold.
     "I had perfect skiing and the best shooting I've ever done," said Bjoerndalen, who won the 10-kilometer sprint in 27 minutes, 16.2 seconds. Focusing carefully every time he pulled the trigger, he struck all 10 targets.
     With the silver going to a Norwegian teammate and the bronze to a Finn, the Scandinavians put their stamp on this ski-and-shoot sport at the Nagano games.
     Having to overcome two penalty shots, Frode Andresen pushed himself in the skiing department for the silver in a 28:17.8 clocking, while Ville Raikkonen missed one target to finish in 28:21.7.
     It was Norway's second gold medal in biathlon, double the number for traditional biathlon powers Germany and Russia. With three medals, they are tied with the Germans in the overall medal count.
     "I think we have a really good chance for the relay. We have five or six people who can do well," Bjoerndalen said of the last men's biathlon event of the games.
     Eight of the competitors shot perfect scores, including Russia's Victor Maigourov, ranked third in World Cup standings after Bjoerndalen. The world's No. 1, Ricco Gross of Germany, has not fared well at these games, finishing 17th in the sprint and sixth in the earlier 20K.
     Dan Westover of Colchester, Vt., finished 49th in a field of 71, while Jay Hakkinen of Kasilof, Alaska,was 60th. Westover missed only once for a finish time of 30:39.5, while Hakkinen failed to hit three targets and was clocked at 31:31.6.
     Bjoerndalen thought he had the gold in his grasp Tuesday but in an unprecedented move officials stopped the 10K due to heavy fog and snow. The 24-year-old student was leading the field and coming into the last two kilometers when the halt was called. Today's race was staged in clear weather and a very light wind.
     "I was really angry. But five minutes later I was ready for the new race," the Norwegian winner said. Silver medalist Andresen, 23, who missed four shots on his first time at the range Tuesday had a different reaction: "I was saved by the bell. It was a new chance for me."
     Raikkonen 26, was simply ecstatic -- a surprise medalist who had ranked just 38th in the World Cup.
     One of three brothers competing in biathlon, Bjoerndalen grew up in the village of Simostranda, where biathlon and soccer were the only sports played. His older brother Dag ranks 10th in the World Cup and took 10th place in the earlier 20K race.