Russians Win Cross-Country Relay
Mar. 18, 2001
FALUN, Sweden (AP) _ Vladimir Vilisov capitalized on Swedish star Per Elofsson's mishap just before the finish and helped Russia win its first men's World Cup cross-country ski relay in four years Sunday.
Racing side by side on a narrow uphill stretch, one of Elofsson's skis and one of his poles got stuck under Vilisov's ski. The Swede fell and needed at least five seconds to get up and continue the race.
``It was an accident,'' said Elofsson, who clinched the individual World Cup title Saturday.
The Swedes filed a protest, but the race jury rejected it.
Russia won the 40-kilometer mixed-style relay _ the first two legs were classic-style and the last two freestyle _ in 1 hour, 36 minutes, 43.1 seconds.
Sweden was 3.5 seconds behind. Italy, which led by nine seconds after the third leg, dropped to third, 21.1 back.
In the individual competition, Elofsson has an insurmountable 183-point lead over Johan Muehlegg, the defending champion from Germany who competes for Spain. With one race left in the series, Elofsson leads Muehlegg, 763 points to 580.
Elofsson, a two-time gold medalist in last month's World Nordic Ski Championships, is Sweden's first World Cup champion since 1989.
Russia's Julia Tchepalova and Norway's Bente Skari, the only contenders for the women's overall, finished third and second in a 10K classic-style race won by Tchepalova's teammate, Larissa Lazutina.
With one race left, a 40K freestyle in Finland next weekend, Tchepalova leads Skari, the two-time defending overall champion, by 36 points.
Lazutina's time was 27:12.9. Skari was more than 10 seconds behind, and Tschepalova trailed Lazutina by more than 25 seconds.