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Norway Again Shows Dominance in Relays


Norway Again Shows Dominance in Relays{mosimage}OBERSTDORF, Germany (AP) Olympic champion Norway pulled away from the Russians on the final leg of the men’s cross-country relay Thursday to win its second straight title at the Nordic Skiing World Championships.

Tore Ruud Hofstad ended a challenge by the young Russians, who faded to third, by pulling away on the final leg of the 40-kilometer race. He crossed the finish line at the tough Oberstdorf course in 1 minute, 39.04 seconds as the sun finally broke through following heavy snowfall at the two-week event.

Afterward, Hofstad grabbed the country’s flag and waved it in triumph as Norway kept its recent stranglehold on the relays, having also taken gold at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

“I think it’s the main thing to win in the worlds, it means so much because we’re a team and it means a lot to the people back home,” teammate Frode Estil said. “That’s why you get a little more nervous beforehand.”

Axel Teichmann charged from far behind to help Germany take silver, sending more than 20,000 spectators into a frenzy. The Germans finished 17.7 seconds back, 1 second ahead of Russia.

Until the final leg, Russia looked as though it had a chance at upsetting the dominant Norwegians and winning the country’s first gold since the 1980 Olympics, which also served as the worlds.

Vassili Rotchev, who captured sprint gold Tuesday, mounted a stirring duel with Estil in the second leg, leaving all challengers in their wake.

“The pace was incredible. Rotchev and Estil just put so much pressure on,” said Germany’s Andreas Schluetter.

Evgenji Dementiev then matched strides with Lars Berger, until the Norwegian picked up 2.7 seconds at the finish line.

But the Russian threat faded when Hofstad, who has captured gold, bronze and silver at two worlds, spurted far ahead of veteran Nikolaj Bolchakov.

Norway’s nine medals and three golds top the medal table with five of 18 events left. Russia and Germany shared second with five.
       

       

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press

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