February 22, 1998
Daehlie wins 50-km cross country for 3rd Nagano gold
Norway's Bjorn Daehlie did not think he could win the 50 kilometers before the race and felt like quitting even at the end.
But somehow, the greatest cross country skier of all time summoned enough energy to hold off surprise challenger Niklas Jonsson of Sweden, collapsing across the finish line for his third gold medal of the Nagano Olympic Winter Games on Sunday.
''Before the race, I didn't actually believe in any medal. I was mentally finished with these Olympics,'' Daehlie said, racing cautiously and concentrating on his pace.
Daehlie, 30, completed the marathon race over the difficult Snow Harp course in Hakuba in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 8.2 seconds to claim the eighth gold medal of his Olympic career and 12th medal overall as the most prolific medal winner by a winter games athlete.
''I thought I was going to stop,'' Daehlie said of the finish where he said his legs ''were finished.''
''Maybe Niklas didn't believe in a gold medal. It was lucky for me,'' Daehlie added.
Jonsson won the silver, coming in 8.1 seconds behind Daehlie with a 2:05:16.3, while Austria's Christian Hoffmann was a distant third with a 2:06:01.8 for the bronze medal.
Jonsson, who was closing in on Daehlie at the end of the race, said later that he never thought that he could win the gold.
''At about 48 km, I got a few meters on Daehlie, but I never thought I could get the gold,'' said Jonsson, who, nevertheless, whispered to Daehlie as he also fell over the finish line ''Why didn't you go 9 seconds slower.''
Daehlie, deliberately controlling his pace over the first laps around the sun-bathed course, lagged 32 seconds behind leader Alexej Prokurorov of Russia in fourth place at the midway marker.
The Norwegian's conditioning and determination gradually made up the difference, however, as he forged a 28.6-second lead over Jonsson at the 46.4-km marker and held on for the gold medal.
Prokurorov faded to fourth, 1:33.3 behind Daehlie.
Defending champion Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakstan, the gold medalist in Lillehammer four years ago, was eighth.
Japan's best finish was turned in by Nagano native Hiroyuki Imai, who crossed the finish line in 2:16:49.5 for 26th place, improving two places on his finish in Lillehammer. (Kyodo News)
Official results of cross-country skiing men's 50-kilometer free Sunday in the 18th Olympic Winter Games at Snow Harp, Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture:
1. Bjorn Daehlie, Norway 2 hours, 5 minutes, 8.2 seconds
2. Niklas Jonsson, Sweden 2:05:16.3
3. Christian Hoffmann, Austria 2:06:01.8
4. Alexej Prokurorov, Russia 2:06:41.5
5. Fulvio Valbusa, Italy 2:06:44.3
6. Thomas Alsgaard, Norway 2:07:21.5
7. Johann Muehlegg, Germany 2:07:25.3
8. Vladimir Smirnov, Kazakstan 2:07:26.4
9. Maurizio Pozzi, Italy 2:08:13.2
10. Silvio Fauner, Italy 2:08:44.3
23. Andrej Nevzorov, Kazakstan 2:15:14.7
29. Qu Donghai, China 2:16:42.3
30. Hiroyuki Imai, Japan 2:16:49.5
32. Mitsuo Horigome, Japan 2:17:09.2
33. Kazutoshi Nagahama, Japan 2:17:24.4
39. Katsuhito Ebisawa, Japan 2:18:52.5
45. Vladimir Bortsov, Kazakstan 2:20:39.3
55. Vitalii Lilichenko, Kazakstan 2:25:58.0
61. Shin Doo Sun, South Korea 2:33:27.3
No part of the article, photographs, or illustrations presented here may be printed or used without permission.
Copyright 1998 The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun