Norway wins cross-country relay at World Champs
OBERSTDORF, Germany -- Marit Bjorgen's powerful final charge in heavy snowfall lifted Norway to gold in the women's cross country team relay at the Nordic Skiing World Championships on Monday.
The World Cup leader shook off two-time Olympic champion Julija Tchepalova of Russia on the last climb in a battle of the sport's top two sprinters as Norway won the 20-kilometer race in 57 minutes, 15.7 seconds.
Russia took silver, 7.6 seconds back, while Italy grabbed an unexpected bronze, finishing 49.7 behind in tough conditions on the hilly Oberstdorf course.
"The plan was I would attack her on the final hill -- when I did that, Tchepalova had no answer," Bjorgen said.
Bjorgen, who has dominated the past two World Cup seasons, started right behind Tchepalova on the final leg.
The two rivals matched strides for 4.3 kilometers until Bjorgen -- known for her power -- sprinted up the final hill. A comfortable gap opened within seconds, and Bjorgen threw her arms into the air in jubilation just before the finish line.
Bjorgen won her first gold after settling for a silver and bronze. She also topped Tchepalova, who beat her in the 15K pursuit two days ago.
Tchepalova added her second silver to her gold at the championships. Her collection of Olympic medals includes a silver and bronze, along with the two golds.
"I knew she wanted revenge. That was not a good position for me. I just knew this day was no good and we wouldn't win gold," Tchepalova said. "Most of all, I would like to go on holiday."
Germany, the defending world and Olympic champion, faded to fourth despite a big home crowd. Evi Sachenbacher lost almost half a minute on the final kilometer on the third leg, ending her team's medal hopes.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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