FILE UNDER -- Nordic

TORINO: XC: Sweden's Lind wins men's sprint; Newell 16th for U.S.

TORINO: XC: Sweden’s Lind wins men’s sprint; Newell 16th for U.S.{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – Bjoern Lind of Sweden easily skied to victory in the in the men’s Olympic 1.3-kilometer cross-country sprint race Wednesday after Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland made an early exit.

Lind finished in 2 minutes, 26.5 seconds to beat silver medalist Roddy Darragon of France, who was six-tenths of a second behind. Thobias Fredriksson of Sweden took the bronze.

Three Italians reached the semifinals in the men’s race, with Cristian Zorzi advancing to the four-skier final and placing fourth. He was the anchor of Italy’s winning 4×10 relay team Sunday.

Hetland missed a chance at Norway’s first gold of these games in cross-country when he tried to pass Lind on the right side during the semifinals and fell. He placed last in that heat.
Also Wednesday, the International Ski Federation rejected an appeal by the French Ski Association claiming Fredriksson, the final skier for the bronze medal-winning Swedish team, took a short cut after making a mistake on the course in Sunday’s 4×10 km relay.
France finished in fourth place and that will stand after FIS judges met to review the evidence and ”decided unanimously against the protest.”
American Newell 16th
Andy Newell placed 16th and was the top American finisher in Wednesday’s Olympic cross-country sprint. Chris Cook was 21st, Torin Koos was 36th and Lars Flora was 46th.

“I wouldn’t say I’m excited, but I guess satisfied with a top-15 finish,” said Newell. “I came here with a medal in the back of my mind, which is maybe a little high of an expectation for my first Olympic Games, but you’ve got to shoot big I guess.”

After qualifying second for the finals, Newell jumped out to an early lead in his heat, but was overtaken on the first hill.

“I got off to a pretty good start,” said Newell. “My plan was to be either in the lead or in second. Up on the top of the hill, if I was in the lead, I was going to try to do a little stop and go technique to try and get an accordion effect on the rest of the field. It worked a little bit, but it kind of sucked me up again on that downhill and into the second hill. I ended up in fourth after that corner and tried to make a pass on the inside around the last corner, but I should have gone around the outside. But, you learn something from every race.”

Newell’s first finals heat was stacked with top skiers, including silver medalist Fredriksson.

“The USA is starting to make a big mark in the international sprint world,” said Newell. “We started the season as nobodys in the international world of sprinting. We came from nothing and we can get them on any given day. Three years ago, I didn’t even picture myself in Torino. I was looking more to 2010. I’m definitely looking towards 2010 as a big medal year.”

“We had pretty high expectations coming into this,” said U.S. sprint coach Vidar Loefshus. “Looking back to when we were planning the season, this is beyond our expectations, so I’m pretty happy.”

– The Associated Press/USSA

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