Spain's Muehlegg wins second gold medal

Thursday, February 14, 2002

AP Sports WriterMIDWAY, Utah (AP) -- Johann Muehlegg of Spain won his second gold medal of the Winter Games, dominating the men's cross-country pursuit event Thursday despite a fall.

Norwegians Thomas Alsgaard and Frode Estil tied for the silver medal. Alsgaard lunged his left ski forward at the finish line to create the tie before falling to the ground.

"I didn't even see him," Estil said. "I thought I had full control of the silver when I looked over and saw Thomas at the finish line. I'm glad I didn't lose the silver."

Alsgaard and Estil waited several minutes for the official decision.

The event had little drama otherwise.

Muehlegg won the 10K classic-style race earlier in the day, giving himself a 13-second lead to begin the second leg of the event -- the 10K freestyle pursuit, where starting order is based on finish in the classic-style race.

The winner was the first to cross the finish.

There was little doubt it would be Muehlegg, who pulled away from the start -- even with a face-first fall in the opening kilometer. He quickly got up, kept going and extended his lead to 50 seconds at the 5-kilometer mark.

"I knew I had a big lead, so it wasn't a problem," Muehlegg said.

The German-born skier covered the entire 20K event in 49 minutes, 20.4 seconds -- 28.5 seconds faster than the Norwegians.

"We knew we couldn't catch Muehlegg, so the race was on for the silver," Estil said.

Muehlegg's performance was similar to his first gold medal victory. He won the 30K freestyle event Saturday, beating his nearest competitor by more than two minutes.

He was so far in front Thursday that he slowed down to grab a Spanish flag, carried it in his right hand for the final 100 meters and waved it as he crossed the finish line.

"I thought, 'Now it's finished; they cannot catch me,"' he said.

Alsgaard started the race 36 seconds behind Estil but rallied for the silver with the fastest time in the 10K freestyle race.

"There's something about pursuit that makes me give a little more," Alsgaard said.

World Cup champion Per Elofsson of Sweden finished fourth, keeping him off the medals platform for the third straight Olympics competition.

Americans Kris Freeman (15th), John Bauer (20th), Justin Wadsworth (44th) and Patrick Weaver (47th) were not factors.

Held on the same day for the first time in the Olympics, the pursuit features athletes skiing 10K using the classic technique -- staying in narrow tracks -- and then going the same distance in freestyle, which uses shorter skis and resembles skating.

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