Overall title to come down to final race

Updated: March 12, 2004, 11:15 AM ET
Associated Press

PRAGELATO, Italy -- Norway's Marit Bjoergen won a sprint at the World Cup cross-country finals Friday, giving her a chance to overtake Italy's Gabriella Paruzzi for the overall title.

Paruzzi, a 2002 Olympic champion, finished fifth in the sprint. She holds a 65-point lead over Bjoergen in the standings going into the season's last race Saturday, a 15-kilometer freestyle. Each win is worth 100 points.

Bjoergen edged Canada's Beckie Scott by 0.2 seconds in the four-woman final in this resort that will host the cross-country events at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Finland's Elina Hietamaeki-Pienimaeki was third ahead of Germany's Claudia Kuenze.

Bjoergen, a specialist in the short sprints, captured the specialty title by accumulating 745 points with seven straight wins.

Italy's Freddy Schwienbacher captured his first World Cup win, beating Norway's Jens Arne Svartedal and Boerre Naess in the men's sprint. Germany's Rene Sommerfeldt, the overall title already secured, was eliminated in the early rounds.

Sommerfedt had an unbeatable lead of 270 points over dethroned overall champion Mathias Fredriksson of Sweden entering the last men's event, a 30K freestyle Sunday.

Sweden's Thobias Fredriksson won the sprint title with 410 points from eight events. Svartedal finished second with 381.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press