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    Thursday, February 12, 1998

    Norway celebrates Dahlie's record

     OSLO, Norway (AP) -- The enormous headline on the front page of Norway's largest newspaper left no doubt about the country's feelings for Bjoern Dahlie.
     "Congratulations, Bjoern. You are the greatest," crowed Verdens Gang about the cross-country skier whose victory in the 10-kilometre race Thursday made him the winningest male Winter Olympian ever.
     Dahlie's six Olympic golds and three silvers match the number won by Russian women's cross-country great Lyubov Yegorova.
     Dahlie, 30, frightened winter sports-crazy Norwegians by finishing in 20th place in Monday's 30-kilometre classical race.
     So, much of the country was awake and nervous in the middle of the night to watch Dahlie in Thursday's race, which started at 1 a.m. local time.
     After his victory, the national news agency NTB assured Norwegians that "order has been restored to the universe."
     "I am unbelievably happy," Dahlie told Norwegian reporters in Japan. "It would have been tough to return home from an Olympics with a 20th place. I was very hot for revenge after the 30K, and think this day is just great."
     Now his eyes are on Saturday's 15-kilometre pursuit, where he starts with a 15-second edge. One more gold, or for that matter any medal, and Dahlie reigns alone atop the list of Winter Olympians.
     "But they don't just hand out gold medals here," he said.