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    Thursday, February 19, 1998

    Fevered Finn drops out of 50K race

     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- Ten days after he won the first men's cross country race of the Winter Games, Finland's Mika Myllyla has pulled out of the last one -- just the latest Olympic contender to be felled by illness.
     Myllyla, who won the 30-kilometer classical Feb. 9 and is the 50K world champion, has been suffering from a fever and said he would not be able to stand the rigors of Sunday's 50K race, Finnish officials said today. The race will last more than two hours on a course reckoned by many of Myllyla's rivals to be the toughest they've ever seen.
     By early this week, more than 50 athletes had been reported sick with flu-like symptoms at the Olympic Village in Nagano, including Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko, German figure skater Tanja Szewczenko, and Norway's gold medal-winning speedskater Adne Sondral.
     Myllyla, who also won bronze medals in the 10K classical and the 40K relay, will fly home Friday along with teammate Kuisma Taipale, who also has been ill, team spokesman Risto Nieminen said.
     That means the Finns will field only three competitors in Sunday's race: Juha Alm, Jari Isometsa and Sami Repo.
     Norwegian skiers Bjorn Dahlie and Thomas Alsaard, who have also won gold medals here, likely will be the main contenders, along with defending titlist Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan and Italy's Silvio Fauner.