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Norway's Hanevold Wins 20K Biathlon

By Denis D. Gray
Associated Press
Wednesday, February 11, 1998; 5:43 a.m. EST

 Halvard Hanevold (left) gets a hug from his coach after winning gold in the men's 20K biathlon. (Itsuo Inonye/AP)
NOZAWA ONSEN, Japan — Norway's Halvard Hanevold overcame a spot of shaky shooting by unleashing a final reserve of skiing power to win the men's 20-kilometer individual biathlon race at the Winter Olympics Wednesday.

Hanevold, who only managed 46th in the event at the last Olympics, scored his surprise victory in 56 minutes, 16.4 seconds, nudging out Italian veteran Pier Alberto Carrara.

Skiing in his fourth Olympics, the 31-year-old Italian emerged as the only perfect shooter of the day, hitting all 20 of his targets. But he finished a shade behind at 56:21.9.

Third was Aleksei Aidarov, a first time Olympican from Belarus, in 55:46.5. Both he and Halvard missed one target in their fourth and last time at the range.

"I tried to race a stable race, at the same speed, and save something for the last stretch,'' Hanevold said after the event. Admitting that he lost some of his cool after missing his 19th shot, Hanevold regained concentration and then burst out on the last skiing leg.

"I didn't think I could win so I concentrated on securing the silver. But during the last kilometer I started hoping for gold and gave it all I had,'' said Hanevold, who collapsed at the finish line after a gutsy, go-for-broke effort.

"A missed shot and you're out of the ball game,'' said Hanevold, a 28-year-old civil engineering student from Trondheim.

It didn't quite prove true for him, but it did for some of the stars in this oldest and probably most rigorous biathlon event.

France's Raphael Poiree, widely touted to win, finished 22nd after missing two shots, while the World Cup no. 1, Ricco Gross of Germany, came in sixth. The best showing by the poweful Russians was by 1994 gold medalist Sergei Tarasov, who placed 15th after four of his shot went astray.

But the Russians were without one of their top biathletes, Victor Maigourov. The World Cup no. 2 was down with illness, and an an uncertain starter in the two remaining men's biathlon events.

American Jay Hakkinen, 20, of Kasilof, Alaska, took a tumble on one of the steep descents on this tough course, finished 42nd in 1:02:10.3, missing four targets.

Skiing in his first Olympics and having just turned senior, he is regarded as perhaps the best biathlete the United States has yet produced.

The second American entry, Robert Rosser, 28, of Plattsburg, N.Y., was 69th among the 71 finishers. He clocked a 1:08:35.7, missing seven times.

"We're physically fit, we have skis for every condition and it's a young team which is improving,'' Hanevold said of his team. "It's not a miracle. Just hard work.''

Traditionally a biathlon power, Norway took no medals when it hosted the 1994 Olympics at Lillehammer. But signaling a comeback, the Norwegians won two medals at the 1997 world championships.

Hanevold ranked 13th in World Cup standings, and below three of his countrymen in Norway's talented biathlon contingent. His best performance in world championships was fourth, notched in a relay in 1996. But last month he showed that he was moving up when he won the 20KM in at World Cup race in Italy.

Carrara, 31, a forest guard from Serina, had never medalled at his three earlier Olympic outings, and never did better than 15th in an individual event. He stood at 30th in the World Cup before the race.

Aidarov, 23, a top shooter who ranked 16th in World Cup standings, attributed his one miss to unfamiliarity with a new rifle and a possible mechanism problem due to heavy snowfall Tuesday.

"Perfect,'' said a French coach, Jean-Pierre Amat, about course conditions for the men's race. In contrast, the women's 15KM was run in thick snowfall. On Wednesday, the skies were blue, the wind hardly blew and snow conditions were fairly consistent throughout the race.

In the 20K event, competitors started at intervals of 30 seconds and mastered a total climb of 719 meters (786 yards) over the course. They carried .22-caliber rifles, weighing about 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds), and 20 rounds of ammunition.

Between stretches of skiing, they fired four times at 50-meter-distant targets, alternating prone and standing positions. Each target missed added a penalty minute to the total time competitors took to ski and shoot.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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