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Elofsson captures 15-kilometer freestyle event

3/2/2002

LAHTI, Finland -- Per Elofsson of Sweden closed in on a
second straight title in World Cup cross country, winning a
15-kilometer free style event Saturday at the Lahti Ski Games.

Elofsson, coming off a disappointing showing at the Winter
Olympics, has won four times this season and finished out of the
top three only once.

Estonia's Kristina Smigun edged Italy's Stefania Belmondo by 0.6
seconds in the women's 10K free style, winning in 26 minutes, 32.3
seconds.

Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic was fourth and took
command of the women's World Cup title. Bente Skari of Norway lost
ground by finishing 12th and World Cup champ Yulia Tchepalova of
Russia did not start. Neumannova has 730 points and Skari has 609.

Elofsson was timed in 35:43.6 seconds. He was 17.1 seconds
faster than runner-up Thomas Alsgaard of Norway.

"I was not sure about my condition after Salt Lake City,"
Elofsson said. "I was very tired coming home and slept for 12-13
hours a day. I did not get the results there and wanted to show
now, back in Scandinavia, that I can go fast again."

Tore Ruud Hofstad of Norway was third and Anders Sodergren of
Sweden and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic tied for fourth.

Elofsson won three world championship titles on the same tracks
in Lahti last year.

He increased his lead in the World Cup standings to 238 points.
His closest rivals, Norway's Anders Aukland and Estonia's Jaak Mae,
did not compete in Lahti.