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Norway's Bjoerndalen Wins Fourth Gold Medal

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posted: 12/31/1999

Midway, Utah Feb. 20, 2002 (AP by Mark Long)--Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became only the third Olympian to win four gold medals at a single games when Norway won the men's 30-kilometer biathlon relay Wednesday.

Three-time defending Olympic champion Germany won the silver and France took the bronze.

Only two others have won four gold medals in one Winter Olympics: American speedskater Eric Heiden and Russian speedskater Lydia Skoblikova. Heiden won five at the 1980 Lake Placid Games; Skoblikova won four at the 1964 Innsbruck Games.

``This is very special,'' Bjoerndalen said.

Bjoerndalen swept the biathlon events here, winning three individual events and then the team relay. He might not be done, either. He could try for a fifth gold in the 50K cross-country race Saturday.

The Norwegians--Halvard Hanevold, Frode Andresen, Egil Gjelland and Bjoerndalen-covered the Soldier Hollow course in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 42.3 seconds. Germany was 45.3 seconds behind.

As Bjoerndalen crossed the finish line, he screamed loudly while repeatedly pumping both poles into the air as Norwegian flags waved all around through the falling snow.

His teammates quickly greeted him with hugs, then Gjelland picked him up and put him on his shoulders for a victory ride.

It was Norway's first medal in the event, which made its Olympic debut in 1968. Russia won the first six gold medals, then Germany started its run at the Albertville Games in 1992.

This race was decided lone before Bjoerndalen took to the course.

``My shooting wasn't perfect, but the other guys gave me a good lead,'' he said.

Andresen, skiing the second leg of the relay, made up a 17.7-second deficit to Russia, took the lead and turned it into a 20.9-second advantage when he touched teammate Egil Gjelland.

Andresen missed three targets at the range but easily made up the time on the skiing course. Then Gjelland, the weakest skier on the team, did exactly what he needed to do: hit his targets and maintain the lead for Bjoerndalen. Gjelland missed just one of his 10 targets and turned it over to Bjoerndalen more than a minute in front of Russia, which finished fourth.

Bjoerndalen took over from there, winning easily despite needing three extra shots to hit his 10 targets and losing about 10 seconds when he fell on a downhill run.

``I told the (lapped) skier to move left and he didn't move left, so I fell,'' Bjoerndalen said. ``But I didn't lose much time.''

Bjoerndalen won all four golds in dominating fashion. He won the 12.5K pursuit Saturday, the 10K sprint Feb. 13 and the 20K race Feb. 11. He also finished sixth in the 30K freestyle cross-country race Feb. 9.

In the relay event, biathletes fire twice--the first time from the prone position and the second from the more difficult standing position.

They get eight bullets to hit five targets. But if they go through the first five in their clips, they must load each bullet individually after that. For each of the black, circular targets left standing, the skier must circle a 150-meter penalty loop nearby.

The young U.S. team--Jeremy Teela, Jay Hakkinen, Dan Campbell and Lawton Redman--finished 15th in the 19-team field, almost seven minutes behind Norway.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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