Lazutina Wins Second Gold Medal
By Nesha Starcevic
Thursday, February 12, 1998; 3:46 a.m. EST
HAKUBA, Japan Russian cross-country skier Larissa Lazutina won her second gold medal in two days today, becoming the most successful athlete so far at Nagano.
The 32-year-old skier held off a strong challenge from fellow Russian Olga Danilova and the Czech skier Katerina Neumannova, adding the 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit to the 5K title she won Tuesday.
After three events in women's cross-country, Russia now leads the field with three golds and two silvers. Lazutina, with two golds and a silver, has the most medals so far of any competitor at Nagano.
"It was very tough for everyone so I'm twice as pleased that I managed to win,'' said Lazutina, whose time was 28 minutes 29.9 seconds. Added to her 5K time, that gave her a total of 46:06.9. The pursuit is decided on total time.
She had won team gold medals in the 4x5K relays at Albertville and Lillehammer Games, but had missed the individual gold in both Olympics.
Lazutina, who took a five-second lead into the pursuit from the 5K, was chased through most of the race by Neumannova. The Czech stayed a little over a ski length away and even took the lead with 2.6 kilometers to go in steady rain. About kilometer before the finish Lazutina pulled away while Danilova, who had won the 15K race on Sunday, passed Neumannova to grab the silver, 6.5 seconds behind in total time.
Neumannova had to settle for the bronze, 7.3 seconds behind. She won the silver in the 5K.
"We were helping each other really,'' Lazutina said of her battle with Neumannova. "I knew that the race would be settled in the last few meters.''
"We switched tracks because she was better on the downhills and I was faster uphill,'' she said. "I must thank her, she didn't bother me at all.''
Lazutina crossed the line just as thunder and lightning broke out over the course.
"God must have helped me,'' she said. "I had doubts in the morning because I had accumulated some tiredness,'' she said. "I knew the race would be decided in the late stages.''
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press
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