Julija Tchepalova edged past Italian favorite Stefania Belmondo in the women's 30-kilometer freestyle race Friday as the Russian women swept all five gold medals in croos country skiing contested at the Nagano Olympics.
The 21-year-old Tchepalova, dubbed ''the future'' of Russian cross country skiing, finished the grueling race in 1 hour, 22 minutes, 1.5 seconds on the Snow Harp course slowed considerably by heavy rain.
Belmondo won the silver medal 10.2 seconds behind Tchepalova while Russia's Larissa Lazutina got the bronze 1:14.2 back for her fifth medal of the Nagano Games.
Elena Vaelbe, another Russian who has won every major title except an Olympic individual gold, saw her dreams thwarted yet again as she finished fifth in 1:24:52.8.
Belmondo, a specialist in the freestyle technique, held the pace through 22 km of the race, but began to slow down in the final four km.
It was Belmondo's seventh career Olympic medal and second for the Nagano Games but she still shook her head in disappointment after the race. (Kyodo News)
Official results of cross country skiing women's 30-kilometer free Friday in the 18th Olympic Winter Games at Snow Harp, Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture:
1. Julija Tchepalova, Russia 1 hour, 22 minutes, 1.5 seconds
2. Stefania Belmondo, Italy 1:22:11.7
3. Larissa Lazutina, Russia 1:23:15.7
4. Elin Nilsen, Norway 1:24:24.5
5. Elena Vaelbe, Russia 1:24:52.8
6. Maria Theurl, Austria 1:24:54.3
7. Brigitte Albrecht, Switzerland 1:25:15.0
8. Irina Taranenko Terelia, Ukraine 1:25:22.3
9. Marit Mikkelsplass, Norway 1:25:36.9
10. Gabriella Paruzzi, Italy 1:26:06.0
21. Svetlana Deshevykh, Kazakstan 1:29:48.1
30. Svetlana Shishkina, Kazakstan 1:31:39.7
32. Sumiko Yokoyama, Japan 1:32:04.3
38. Midori Furusawa, Japan 1:33:16.2
39. Kumiko Yokoyama, Japan 1:33:19.7
40. Oxana Yatskaya, Kazakstan 1:33:23.4
52. Olga Selezneva, Kazakstan 1:36:30.6
58. Alla Mikhayelian, Armenia 1:44:03.6
Tomomi Otaka, Japan Did not finish
(February 20, 1998)