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Daehlie Wins Again in Cross Country

By Robert Millward
Associated Press
Wednesday, February 11, 1998; 10:14 p.m. EST

HAKUBA, Japan — First embraced last after Bjorn Daehlie and Philip Boit made Olympic skiing history in the extreme.

Daehlie became the first man to win six Winter Olympic gold medals when he captured the 10-kilometer classical cross-country race in 27 minutes, 24.5 seconds.

Then, the Norwegian had enough time to do interviews and clean his skis before embracing Kenya's Phillip Boit, who finished 20 minutes later in his country's ambitious Winter Olympics debut.

Markus Gandler, eight seconds slower, won the silver. Finland's Mika Myllylae, winner of the 30K race, won the bronze in 27:40.1.

Daehlie, who flopped to 20th in Monday's 30K after putting the wrong wax on his skis, got it right this time while skiing in a steady rain at the Snow Harp course.

He led from the start Thursday (Wednedsay night EST) to a finish that didn't occur until an exhausted Boit, skiing so erratically that he sometimes knocked down the flags that lined the course, came across the line in 47.25.5—almost enough time for Daehlie to ski two races.

As a spent Boit bravely crossed the finish line, Daehlie was there to greet him—one of the greatest Olympians of all time embracing one of the unlikeliest.

``I was very happy to see him finish,'' the Norwegian said. ``I told him I was very impressed that he finished. It's good for people from other nations to compete though it would be a problem if there would be too many.''

For now, Boit was happy just to finish. Soon he hopes he will finish among the leaders.

``My aim is to become the Olympic and world champion,'' said Boit, a former distance runner who has finished last in all eight of his world class races. ``That is about three of four years coming. But I am trying to compete in as many competitions and I will be training all the time and competing and learning from these guys and stealing their techniques.''

For now, he'd like to steal their times.

Daehlie's triumph before a large crowd huddled under umbrellas goes with the three golds he won at Albertville in 1992 and the two he collected in his native Norway at Lillehammer in '94.

Daehlie, who can win a seventh Olympic gold Saturday (Friday night EST) in the 15-kilometer freestyle, was 6.3 seconds faster than the rest of the field by the first checkpoint at 1.8 kilometers, and never let that lead slip. Although his skies were slipping repeatedly as he approached that mark, his time of 4:40.1 still put him well ahead of countryman Thomas Alsgaard.

On Monday, Daehlie guessed wrong about which wax to use on a tricky course. He guessed right Thursday—and he admitted it was a guess.

``It (waxing the skis) was difficult, and we could have missed, but fortunately we chose the right wax,'' he said. ``I had waxed three pairs an hour before start, but then the weather changed. We prepared two new pairs and chose the right solution.''

Alsgaard, who dropped out of Monday's 30K while defending the title, fell just before the 6.5K mark but still went through as third-fastest behind Daehlie and Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan. By that stage, Daehlie had a lead of 25 seconds over the field and was well on course for victory and the record.

``I felt terrible, but found out from my seconds that the others also had a rough time of it,'' Daehlie said. ``I took it a bit easy in the last downhill part, I was afraid of falling there. Otherwise it was heavy, and i used my arms a lot.''

Alsgaard failed to keep up the hunt for a silver and wound up fifth, eight seconds off the medals, as Gandler came up strong in the second half of the race for his best ever result in a major event.

Myllyla, whose 30K victory goes with his 50K triumph at last year's world championship at Trondheim, Norway, was always close to another medal and edged Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan by five seconds.

Daehlie went into these games tied with speed skaters Eric Heiden of the United States and A. Clas Thunberg of Finland with five gold medals.

Daehlie is now tied with Lydia Skoblikova and Lyubov Egorova as the winningest Winter Games competitors. Skoblikova won her six golds for the Soviet Union at speed skating in 1960 and '64, and Egorova's six for Russia came at cross country skiing at the Albertville and Lillehammer games.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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