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    Saturday, February 21, 1998

    Who follows Dahlie, Alsgaard?

     HAKUBA, Japan (AP) -- Bjorn Dahlie, Thomas Alsgaard. Two familiar Norwegian names from the cross-country races at Lillehammer, back at Nagano collecting more Olympic gold medals.
     And the Norwegian men's team appears in good shape to carry the momentum through to the 2002 Olympics.
     Dahlie says he isn't retiring yet and Alsgaard is only 26 -- and Norway has plenty of talented skiers coming up behind them. The top 50 in the current World Cup standings contains 13 Norwegians.
     Skiers like Frode Estil, Anders Eide and Krister Sorgaard, yet to make appearances at Olympic level, have scored at least 100 World Cup points this season and are in the top 21 along with Olympic veterans Alsgaard, Dahlie, Erling Jevne and Sture Sivertsen.
     Of the three comparative newcomers, Estil has scored a fourth place finish in a 30K race at Davos as well as two sixth-place results, Eide has four places in the top 11 and Sorgaard has two in the top 10.
     The young skiers would do well to adopt the same clear-headed approach Dahlie has toward his successes.
     "The reason I have been able to win for so many years is that I do think all the time about being the best, I don't feel like the biggest," Dahlie said.
     Compared with Dahlie, Alsgaard is just starting out. He was a surprise winner ahead of Dahlie of the 30K at Lillehammer but impressively beat his teammate in the 15K pursuit and also won the thrilling final leg of the relay in a stride-for-stride finish with Italy's Silvio Fauner.
     Norwegian ski followers see him as the natural successor to Dahlie who, in turn, took over from triple gold medalist Vegard Ulvang after the '92 Games.