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Tuesday, February 19, 2002
Favored Czech eliminated in second round

Associated Press

MIDWAY, Utah -- Julija Tchepalova of Russia dusted off a pair of skis and rode them to the gold medal in the 1.5-kilometer cross-country sprint Tuesday, her second medal of these Winter Games.

Julija Tchepalova
Russia's Julija Tchepalova has gold waiting for her after crossing the finish line of the 1.5-kilometer sprint.

Evi Sachenbacher of Germany won the silver and Anita Moen of Norway was the bronze medalist.

Claudia Kuenzel of Germany finished fourth and protested the results, claiming Moen cut her off by illegally changing lanes in the final stretch. A competition panel overruled the complaint shortly after the finish.

"It was a very difficult victory for me," Tchepalova said. "Today was just my lucky day."

Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic, favored to win the event, was eliminated in the second round.

Tchepalova covered the Soldier Hollow course in 3 minutes, 10.6 seconds -- controlling the race from start to finish. She did it with a pair of skis she had not used in more than two years.

"I hadn't used them because there wasn't the right weather," she said, referring to the slushy conditions. "Today, they were going forward like crazy and contributed to my victory."

Tchepalova won bronze in the 10K classical event. The victory Tuesday was her second gold medal in two Olympics -- she won the 30K freestyle in 1998.

Athletes ski just less than a mile in the sprint, a fast-paced, fan-friendly race making its Olympic debut.

The 58-woman field was narrowed during early morning qualifying. The fastest 16 skiers moved into four elimination heats. The top two skiers from each four-person heat advanced to the semifinals. The top two skiers in each semifinal then advanced to the four-person final.

Americans Tessa Benoit, Kikkan Randall, Aelin Peterson and Kristina Joder failed to qualify for the elimination heats.