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    Monday, February 9, 1998

    Bulgaria wins first Olympic gold

     NOZAWA ONSEN, Japan (AP) -- Yekaterina Dafovska, an unheralded Bulgarian ranked only 51st in the world, won her country's first Winter Olympics gold medal Monday in the women's 15-kilometer individual biathlon.
     The silver went to another middle-ranked biathlete, Yelena Petrova of the Ukraine. Ursula Disl of Germany skied and shot her way to a second consecutive bronze medal.
     Despite falling snow and a gusting wind, all three missed only one of the 20 targets, which meant cross-country skiing decided the winner.
     Dafovska, 22, finished the race in 54 minutes, 52 seconds. Petrova's time was 55:09.8 and Disl's was 55:17.9.
     Although snowfall tapered off toward the end of the race, the weather conditions slowed times on the course and made shooting difficult. Some biathletes had to wipe snowflakes from their eyes before pulling the trigger.
     Wind was light but changed directions four times.
     Sweden's Magdalena Forsberg, ranked first in the World Cup standings, missed three targets -- adding three penalty minutes to her time -- and finished only 14th. Several other stars among the 64 competitors also faltered on the tough course.
     Dafovska, an administrator from Tchepelare, ranks only 51st in the World Cup standings. She didn't take up biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and shooting, in 1992, but she made the national team a year later.
     The best American effort came from Stacey Wooley, 29, of Newbury, Vt., who finished 55th in a slow time of 1:03:57.3. But she shot well, missing only twice.
     Monday's event was the first of six events of Olympic biathlon competition, which has drawn 200 biathletes from 32 nations. Russia, Norway and Germany were predicted to take the majority of the medals in an unpredictable sport.
     In the 15-kilometer event, competitors start at intervals of 30 seconds and must master a climb of 533 yards over the course. They carry .22-caliber rifles, weighing about 7 1/2 pounds, and 20 rounds of ammunition.
     Between stretches of skiing, they fire four times at targets about 160 feet away, altenating prone and standing positions. Each missed target adds a penalty minute to the total time.

     Biathlon Results
     NOZAWA OSEN, Japan (AP) -- Final results Monday from the women's 15km biathlon medal event at the Winter Olympics (penalties in parentheses):

     1, Ekaterina Dafovska, Bulgaria, 54 minutes, 52.0 seconds (1).
     2, Elena Petrova, Ukraine, 55:09.8 (1).
     3, Ursula Disl, Germany, 55:17.9 (1).
     4, Pavlina Filipova, Bulgaria, 55:18.1 (1).
     5, Andreja Grasic, Slovenia, 56:01.0 (4).
     6, Ryoko Takahashi, Japan, 56:17.4 (3).
     7, Albina Akhatova, Russia, 56:21.7 (1).
     8, Annette Sikveland, Norway, 56:38.7 (3).
     9, Yu Shumei, China, 56:41.3 (2).
     10, Martina Zellner, Germany, 56:46.3 (4).
     11, Eva Tofalvi, Romania, 56:48.6 (1).
     12, Svetlana Paramygina, Belarus, 56:53.4 (2).
     13, Olga Melnik, Russia, 57:10.8 (2).
     14, Magdalena Forsberg, Sweden, 57:16.9 (3).
     15, Liv Skjelbreid, Norway, 57:21.2 (5).
     U.S. Finishers
     55, Stacey Wooley, Newbury, N.H., 1:03:57.3 (2).
     56, Kara Salmela, Golden Valley, Minn., 1:04:43.7 (5).
     61, Ntala Skinner, Sun Valley, Idaho, 1:09:09.0 (3).