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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Lesser stars outshine powerful Germans, Russians

     NOZAWA ONSEN, Japan (AP) -- A burst of speed made up for one bad shot and carried Norway's Halvard Hanevold to an Olympic gold medal.
     Hanevold, ranked 13th in the world, won the championship in the 20-kilometer event Wednesday while the powerful Germans and Russians faltered.
     Italy's Pier Alberto Carrara -- never a medalist in three previous Olympics -- won the silver and first-time Olympian Alexie Aidarov of Belarus won the bronze.
     Hanevold, a civil engineering student, said he was "a bit shaky" after missing his next-to-last shot. At that moment, he thought he couldn't beat Carrera, the only one of 72 starters who hit all 20 targets.
     "I didn't think I could win so I concentrated on securing the silver," he said. "But during the last kilometer, I started hoping for gold and gave it all I had."
     Carrera said he probably lost the race because he spent too much time on the range.
     "That's biathlon. It's a lottery," the Italian said. "In cross country, you have the top people who keep winning. In this sport, almost anyone in the top 40 or 50 can win."
     Hanevold crossed the finish line in 56 minutes, 16.4 seconds. Carrera's time was 56:21.9, and Aidarov finished in 55:46.5.
     The Norwegians placed three biathletes among the top ten finishers, while the Germans had two. The top Russian, 1994 Olympic champion Sergei Tarasov, finished 15th.
     "We're physically fit, we have skis for every condition and it's a young team which is improving," Hanevold said. "It's not a miracle. Just hard work."
     In the 20K event, competitors started at intervals of 30 seconds and mastered a total climb of 786 yards over the course. They carried .22-caliber rifles and 20 rounds of ammunition.
     Between stretches of skiing, they fired four times at 50-meter-distant targets, alternating prone and standing positions. Each target missed added a penalty minute to the total time competitors took to ski and shoot.
     American Jay Hakkinen, 20, of Kasilof, Alaska, skiing his first Olympic race, come in 42nd while teammate Robert Rosser of Plattsburgh, New York, finished 69th. One biathlete failed to finish.
     Hanevold ranked 13th in World Cup standings, and below three of his countrymen in Norway's powerful biathlon contingent. His best performance in world championships was fourth, notched in a relay in 1996. But last month he showed that he was moving up when he won the 20KM in at World Cup race in Italy.
     Carrara, 31, was skiing in his fourth Olympics, having never done better than 15th in an individual event. He ranked 30th in the World Cup before the race.
     Unlike Monday's women's 15K, which was held in thick snowfall, Wednesday's conditions were superb -- a clear sky, no wind and generally consistent snow conditions throughout the race.