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Finn Wins 30K Cross-Country Ski Event

By Robert Millward
Associated Press
Sunday, February 8, 1998; 9:28 p.m. EST



Finland's Mika Myllylae
Finland's Mika Myllylae made his way through a snowstorm for his first Olympic gold medal in the men's 30-kilometer classical cross-country race.
(AP Photo)
HAKUBA, Japan — Finland's Mika Myllylae powered through a snowstorm to a spectacular victory in the men's 30-kilometer classical cross-country race and his first Olympic gold medal.

Stars such as Bjorn Dahlie and Vladimir Smirnov were unable to master the conditions on one of the toughest courses ever used in Olympic cross-country skiing. But Myllylae, who was silver medalist behind Smirnov over 50K at Lillehammer four years ago, crossed the line more than 1½: minutes ahead of the field.

The 28-year-old skier, who became a national hero when he won the 50K event at last year's world championship at Trondheim, Norway, grabbed a Finnish flag in the home straight and held it between his teeth as he crossed the line at the Snow Harp course in 1 hour, 33 minutes, 55.8 seconds.

Norway's Erling Jevne gained his first Olympic medal, a silver, in 1:31.3 behind, and Silvio Fauner, a member of the Italian team that won the 1994 relay gold medal at Lillehammer, won the bronze in 1:36:08.5.

Another Finn, Jari Isometsae, placed fourth ahead of Italian Fulvio Valbusa, while Smirnov and Dahlie were well back.

Myllylae, Isometsae and the other Finnish skiers all trained in an "altitude house,'' which simulates the atmosphere of high-altitude training through rarefied oxygen. Critics have questioned the practice, saying it produces the same results as illegal doping.

Smirnov, winner of the 50K gold at Lillehammer, never got close to the lead and placed 12th, more than five minutes behind the winner, while it was even worse for Dahlie.

The Norwegian, who needs one more gold medal to set a Winter Olympics record of six for men's events, struggled throughout as the last of the 75 starters.

The 30-year-old was 10th at the 12.3-kilometer stage and had slipped to 13th by half way, almost 2½ minutes behind leader Myllylae, who was stretching out his advantage in the tough weather conditions on a fiercely undulating course.

Dahlie, who won three golds at Albertville and two golds and two silvers at Lillehammer, came home 20th in 1:40:18.5, which was 6:22.7 behind his big rival, Myllylae.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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