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    Tuesday, February 17, 1998

    Norway edges Italy in 40K relay

     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- Bjorn Dahlie's chance at Olympic history rested with his Norwegian teammate and rival, Thomas Alsgaard -- the same man who had denied Dahlie a record seventh gold medal by surging past him in a race last week. This time, Alsgaard's late charge put Dahlie in the record books.
     Alsgaard got his right ski across the line two-tenths of a second ahead of Italy's lunging Silvio Fauner, giving Norway the gold medal Wednesday (Tuesday night EST) in the 40-kilometer cross-country relay and making Dahlie the winningest Winter Olympian.
     "I was not thinking about it so much, but it means something to me," Dahlie said of the record. "I will appreciate it in a few years when I look back on a fantastic career. But I was not concentrating on it here."
     Dahlie, who overcame a 12.6-second deficit in the third leg, has seven gold medals and 11 overall. His gold-medal total moved him past two other athletes and his total medals broke the record he shared with Raisa Smetanina, a cross-country skier from the former Soviet Union.
     It also was Dahlie's third medal and second gold of the Nagano Games. He won the 10K and was beaten by 1.1 seconds by Alsgaard in the 15K pursuit.
     Dahlie and Alsgaard live on the same street in Nannestad, and after the pursuit race both men admitted there was more to their rivalry than who has the bigger car in the neighborhood. But Dahlie also said: "Thinking of the relay, I am glad I have this guy next to me on the same team."
     He was even more glad Wednesday.
     Alsgaard and Italy's Silvio Fauner were stride for stride all the way to the line, but Alsgaard stuck out his leg as Fauner made a dive for the finish. Television replays showed the Norwegian's outstretched right leg barely got there first, and Fauner's spectacular bid ended with him sprawled dejected in the snow.
     "It was important to focus on things that you have to do, like getting the speed at the finish and pushing your body forward," Alsgaard said. "I felt I was in control."
     For Alsgaard, the narrow victory was revenge for an equally slim defeat to Italy four years ago in Lillehammer, when Italy won by .4 seconds. Fauner edged Dahlie in that race in 1994.
     "It was a big revenge," said Dahlie, the first to congratulate Alsgaard. "For me, it's better to win by 20 centimeters than half a minute."
     The Norwegians were 10th after the first leg with 22.6 seconds to make up, then rallied to celebrate their 11th gold out of 14 men's cross-country events at the last three Olympics.
     Finland won the bronze medal, 1:19.8 behind the winners, with 39-year-old Harri Kirvesniemi collecting his fifth relay bronze, stretching back to Lake Placid in 1980.
     With eight of the 12 medalists from 1994 back in the '98 race, it looked like Lillehammer all over again.
     Sture Sivertsen, one of the Norwegian foursome who lost to the Italians at Lillehammer, fell back as the opening skier, but Erling Jevne moved into second and cut the Italian lead to 12.6 seconds when he handed off to Dahlie.
     Just 3.2K into the third leg, Dahlie had wiped out the Italian lead and was on his shoulder. He stayed there for 4K, finally cutting to the outside to move ahead at the 7.2 mark.
     But Fabio Maj, skiing third for Italy, refused to let the world's top cross-country skier get away and Dahlie was less then a second ahead as they came to the final changeover, when he tried a tactical ploy that misfired.
     Dahlie pretended to lose his trackline to allow the Italian through so that Alsgaard would have the tactical advantage of following Fauner in the early stages of Leg 4. But Maj had spotted the ploy, did the same, and Alsgaard started the final leg in front.
     The two skiers stayed a ski-length apart but Fauner took over from Alsgaard with 3K to go. With the gold medal beckoning, they set up a carbon copy of the final-straight finish of 1994.
     "I knew that he's very fast in the last 200 meters," Fauner said. "He has an excellent stride on the flat. I was ahead until 10 meters, but he changed his stride and surged past me."
     And made history for Dahlie, too.
     

    Results


     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- Final results Wednesday from the men's 4X10km cross-country relay medal event at the Winter Olympics:
     1, Norway (Sture Sivertsen; Erling Jevne; Bjorn Dahlie; Thomas Alsgaard), 1 hour, 40 minutes, 55.7 seconds.
     2, Italy (Marco Albarello; Fulvio Valbusa; Fabio Maj; Silvio Fauner), 1:40:55.9.
     3, Finland (Harri Kirvesniemi; Mika Myllylae; Sami Repo; Jari Isometsae), 1:42:15.5.
     4, Sweden (Mathias Fredriksson; Niklas Jonsson; Per Elofsson; Henrik Forsberg), 1:42:25.2.
     5, Russia (Vladimir Legotin; Alexei Prokurorov; Sergei Krianin; Sergei Tchepikov), 1:42:39.5.
     6, Switzerland (Jeremias Wigger; Beat Koch; Reto Burgermeister; Wilhelm Aschwanden), 1:42:49.2.
     7, Japan (Katsuhito Ebisawa; Hiroyuki Imai; Mitsuo Horigome; Kazutoshi Nagahama), 1:43:06.7.
     8, Germany (Andreas Schluetter; Jochen Behle; Rene Sommerfeldt; Johann Muehlegg), 1:43:16.1.
     9, Austria (Markus Gandler; Alois Stadlober; Achim Walcher; Christian Hoffmann), 1:43:16.5.
     10, Estonia (Andrus Veerpalu; Raul Olle; Elmo Kassin; Jaak Mae), 1:44:20.9.
     11, Slovakia (Ivan Batory; Martin Bajcicak; Andrej Paricka; Stanislav Jezik), 1:44:31.6.
     12, Ukraine (Gennadi Nikon; Aleksander Zarovnyi; Mykhailo Artiukhov; Nikolai Popovich), 1:44:33.9.
     13, France (Vincent Vittoz; Patrick Remy; Herve Balland; Philippe Sanchez), 1:45:00.2.
     14, Belarus (Sergei Dolidovich; Alexej Tregobov; Alexander Sannikov; Viatcheslav Plaksounov), 1:45:15.3.
     15, Czech Republic (Lukas Bauer; Martin Koukal; Petr Michl; Jiri Magal), 1:45:35.4.
     U.S. finish
     17, United States United States (Marcus Nash, Fryburg, Maine; John Bauer, Champlin, Minn.; Patrick Weaver, Lenox, Mass.; Justin Wadsworth, Bend, Ore.), 1:48:16.4.