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Russian Wins 5K for Second Medal of Games

By Robert Millward
Associated Press
Monday, February 9, 1998; 9:36 p.m. EST

Russia's Larissa Lazutina
Russia's Larissa Lazutina burst into tears after winning the women's 5-kilometer cross-country race. (Joe Cavaretta/AP)

HAKUBA, Japan — For Larissa Lazutina, the numbers were one and 100 — the first individual Olympic gold medal for her and the 100th Winter Games gold for her nation.

Lazutina burst into tears after winning the women's 5-kilometer cross-country race Tuesday (Monday night EST).

Although the 32-year-old Russian had won two relay titles and took the silver in the women's 30K two days earlier, Lazutina broke down when she saw Katerina Neumannova cross the finish line in what she then knew was second place.

Lazutina clocked 17 minutes, 37.9 seconds in snowy conditions on the rough Snow Harp course with the Czech 4.8 seconds slower.

World Cup standings leader Bente Martinsen won the bronze in 17:49.4.

Lazutina's victory makes it two out of two for Russia in women's cross country skiing after Olga Danilova's triumph in the 15K. That takes the Winter Games total for Russia and its two predecessor teams, the Soviet Union and the Unified Team, to 100.

The powerful Norwegian team is yet to win a gold in either men's or women's cross-country events. Martinsen's bronze goes with a third place for Anita Moen Guidon in the 15K race and a silver for Erling Jevne in Monday's men's 30K.

Russian skiers finished fourth and fifth in Tuesday's 5k, while Norway filled places 6, 7 and 8.

Behind Martinsen came Nina Gavryliouk and Danilova, and the three Norwegians were Marit Mikkelsplass, Moen Guidon and Trude Dybendahl Hartz.

Kerrin Petty of Townshend, Vt., was the top American, 51st in 19:36.6.

The 79 skiers started out in near-blizzard conditions and it was still snowing steadily by the time the sun came out halfway through the race.

Neumannova had a 4.4-second advantage over Lazutina by the 1.8K stage but the Russian, then in fourth place, steadily ate up that lead and took control of the race.

Skiing 62nd of the 79 starters, she had to wait eight minutes before she knew she was the Olympic champion and became very emotional when she realized she had captured the first gold that was all her own.

Tuesday's race also was the first leg of the pursuit competition and Lazutina's triumph means she will have a 4.8-second advantage in the second leg on Thursday, when the skiers return for a 10K race.

Italy's Stefania Belmondo, the 1992 30k gold medalist who was considered a leading contender for more medals here, finished 12th, 41.9 seconds slower than the winner.

Elena Vaelba, the Russian who dominated the 1997 World Championships with a sweep of five gold medals, missed the race altogether. The 29-year-old quadruple gold medalist from Albertville in '92 has been suffering from various illnesses all season and said here that she had been plagued by a chest infection.

Her absence means she also is out of the pursuit, is unlikely to be selected for the relay and now only has a chance of competing in the 30K freestyle on Feb. 20.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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