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German Men Win 30K Biathlon Relay
By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press
Saturday, February 21, 1998; 1:23 a.m. EST

NOZAWA ONSEN, Japan — It took the German men two weeks to get it right. Aim improved, skiing revved up, they rarely relinquished an early lead to win the 30-kilometer relay as Olympic biathlon competition ended.

Racing with three of the same biathletes who won the gold at Lillehammer four years ago, the Germans overcame earlier lackluster efforts to win in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 36.2 seconds. Norway was second at 1:21:56.3 and Russia third at 1:22.19.3.

Ricco Gross, ranked No. 1 in World Cup competition, shook of a case of Olympic blahs to put Germany in front, although he faced a serious challenge on the first leg from Belarus and Latvia.

Midway through the race, Latvia was one second ahead of the Germans but by the time the powerful Sven Fischer tagged his brother-in-law and anchor Frank Luck, Germany had established an almost unbeatable 1:10 advantage.

The Germans needed only six extra shots, while the Norwegian and Russian teams each took seven.

Olympic biathlon competition ended with Germany and Norway sharing top honors with two gold apiece and five medals overall. Russia also gathered two golds but finished with three total.

The final race cemented Germany's hold on the men's relay, which it has won in the last three Olympic games. Two days earlier their women's team also took the relay event, producing the Olympics' most successful biathlete when Ursula Disl picked up her sixth medal in three games.

Skies cleared shortly before race time, but earlier light rain and snow flurries made for soggy, slow course conditions, making wax and surface choices difficult.

A record 8,200 spectators turned up to cheer along the tough biathlon course set into the sides of Mount Kenashi and backed by towering cedar trees.

The United States next ahead of just one of the 18 teams, and needed 15 extra shots from Andrew Erickson of Minatonka, Minn.; Jay Hakkinen of Kasilof, Alaska; Robert Rosser of Underhill, Vt.; and Dan Westover of Colchester, Vt.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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