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Norway Wins Men's Nordic Combined

By Robert Millward
Associated Press
Thursday, February 19, 1998; 9:43 p.m. EST

 Norway's victory in the team Nordic combined gave Bjarte Engen Vik his second gold medal of the Games. (AFP)
HAKUBA, Japan — Norway ended Japan's reign as two-time Olympic champion in the team Nordic combined, giving Bjarte Engen Vik his second gold medal of the Nagano Games.

Norway was so far ahead at the end that Fred Lundberg, the fourth leg in the 20-kilometer cross-country relay, was able to grab a Norwegian flag 400 meters from the finish and wave it in celebration as he crossed the line.

With Finland taking the silver well ahead of France, it was a disappointing day for the Japanese, who were watched by Emperor Akihito and 18,000 fans.

Tsugiharu Ogiwara, Satoshi Mori, Gen Tomii and world individual champion Kenji Ogiwara briefly held second place in the race, but wound up fifth, more than two minutes behind the winners.

Japan had won the Olympic titles in Albertville and Lillehammer, but had a considerably weaker lineup here and faded out of contention after poor performances in Thursday's ski jumps.

Norway finished in 54 minutes 11.5 seconds, about 1:20 ahead of the field.

Finland's Samppa Lajunen, Jari Mantila, Tapio Nurmela and Hannu Manninen lost the slight advantage they had after finishing on top in the ski jump. But they held on to finish second, while France rallied for third after finishing only sixth off the jumps.

The French lineup included Fabrice Guy and Sylvain Guillaume, who placed first and second in the individual Nordic combined before their fans at Albertville in 1992.

Lajunen's leap of 94.5 meters helped give Finland a four-second head start in the ski race. But Lajunen soon lost that edge to Norway's Halldor Skard, who went into the first changeover 11.6 seconds ahead of the Finn.

Tsugihara Ogiwara went off first for Japan with his team in fifth place, 21 seconds down at the start. He was up to third by the time he handed over to Mori, but still 30 seconds behind the Norwegians.

Tomii had the Japanese fans roaring when he caught up with Finland's Nurmela on leg three. But both were then caught by Ludovic Roux of France and, when the Frenchman charged through the middle into second place, he took Nurmela with him and the Japanese dropped to fourth.

Tomii's huge effort to put the Japanese in with a chance of winning a third gold medal in a row proved too much. He collapsed after the final changeover having also been overtaken by Austria and Czech skiers to wind up sixth, more than 2 minutes behind Norway.

Second-leg skier Kenneth Braaten handed over to Vik, winner of the individual Nordic combined gold medal. When Vik sent Lundberg away for the final leg, the Norwegians had a lead of 1:17.6.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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