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    Friday, February 13, 1998

    Alsgaard wins 15K freestyle pursuit

     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- No hug this time, and no record gold medal, either. No man has won more at the Winter Olympics than Bjorn Dahlie, which makes losing that much harder.
     Especially this loss, this way -- so close to another gold medal, so close to immortality.
     Dahlie and fellow Norwegian Thomas Alsgaard skied stride for stride for the final two-thirds of their 15-kilometer freestyle pursuit Saturday (Friday night EST), just as they have so many times in so many races.
     With one difference -- this time, Dahlie, the man who usually wins, lost, as Alsgaard overtook him in the final 100 meters. And it hurt, even to a man whose Olympic greatness and renowned sportsmanship don't end when he unstraps his skis.
     The close defeat prevented Dahlie from becoming the first winter Olympian to win seven gold medals. He briefly congratulated Alsgaard, but there was no friendly hug like the one he gave last-place finisher Phillip Boit of Kenya following the 10-kilometer classical race two days before. This time, there was just a polite tapping of fists.
     Dahlie insisted he wasn't interested in the record of seven golds, but the disappointment in his eyes and his gestures seemed to suggest otherwise.
     "I don't look at the lists too much," he said. "I wasn't thinking of getting seven medals. I wa focusing only on the race so I'm not disappointed at all."
     Dahlie still became the winningest man in Winter Olympics history, with six golds and four silvers. That total ties him with Raisa Smetanina of the former Soviet Union for most winter medals.
     Dahlie's victory Thursday in the 10K, which serves as the first half of the pursuit, gave him a 19.4-second lead over Alsgaard, who was the fifth skier to go off.
     Alsgaard made up the deficit in the first 5 kilometers, then stayed right behind Dahlie the rest of the way. The two looked at times as if they were training together, striding in unison through the Snow Harp course made sloppy by a steady rain.
     Dahlie occasionally glanced a peek at Alsgaard, who was content to let his teammate lead -- until the dramatic finish.
     When the two moved into separate lanes near the end, Alsgaard surged past his teammate and got to the line first, pumping his fists into the air.
     "I earned this gold medal," he said. "Bjorn is a great skier and he will dominate cross country so long as he continues to ski. But, after that, I see a chance for me."
     Alsgaard finished in 39 minutes 37.7 seconds, giving him a total time of 1 hour, 7 minutes, 1.7 seconds. Dahlie's total was 1:07:02.8 -- barely a second behind -- and bronze medalist Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan finished in 1:07:31.5.
     Alsgaard, the 30K champion at Lillehammer four years ago, has moved into a house on the same street as Dahlie in a town 30 miles north of Oslo. He admits there is rivalry, albeit friendly.
     "Of course there's a big fight to be the best skier back in the home town," Alsgaard said. "Our houses are 200 meters apart and he sends his kids to throw stones."
     Dahlie won the 15K, 50K and team relay golds at Albertville in 1992 and the 10K and 15K again at Lillehammer two years later. Although he won the 10K here for his sixth gold, he finished 20th in the 30K after putting the wrong wax on his skis.
     He still has two chances of achieving that seventh gold and, in one race, Alsgaard can help him.
     Dahlie will be on Norway's 4x10K relay team Wednesday, teaming up with his rival, and also will line up in the 50K the following Sunday.
     "Thinking of the relay," Dahlie said, "I'm glad I have this guy next to me on the same team."


     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- Final results Saturday from the men's 15km cross-country pursuit event a the Winter Olympics:
     1, Thomas Alsgaard, Norway, 1 hour, 7 minutes, 1.7 seconds.
     2, Bjorn Dahlie, Norway, 1:07:02.8.
     3, Vladimir Smirnov, Kazakstan, 1:07:31.5.
     4, Silvio Fauner, Italy, 1:07:48.9.
     5, Fulvio Valbusa, Italy, 1:07:49.1.
     6, Mika Myllylae, Finland, 1:07:50.6.
     7, Markus Gandler, Austria, 1:8:14.2.
     8, Jari Isometsae, Finland, 1:08:19.4.
     9, Sergei Tchepikov, Russia, 1:08:24.3.
     10, Niklas Jonsson, Sweden, 1:08:25.7.
     11, Achim Walcher, Austria, 1:08:26.9.
     12, Andreas Schluetter, Germany, 1:08:32.3.
     13, Fabio Maj, Italy, 1:08:55.4.
     14, Alois Stadlober, Austria, 1:08:57.1.
     15, Jaak Mae, Estonia, 1:09:02.7.
     U.S. Finishers
     40, Patrick Weaver, Lenox, Mass., 1:12:31.1.
     44, Justin Wadsworth, Bend, Ore., 1:12:42.0.
     47, John Bauer, Champlin, Minn., 1:12:48.6.
     80, Marcus Nash, Fryeburg, Maine, DNS.