Freestyle sprint win gives Kuitunen overall title

Updated: March 10, 2007, 12:44 PM ET
Associated Press

LAHTI, Finland -- Virpi Kuitunen of Finland won the freestyle cross-country sprint Saturday to clinch the women's World Cup overall title at the Lahti Ski Games.

With five events remaining, Kuitunen has 1,297 points. Norway's Marit Bjorgen, the defending overall champion, is second with 788. Bjorgen fell in her semifinal Saturday and finished eighth.

"It felt fantastic to thank this fabulous crowd with the title," Kuitunen said. "There was no better place where to win it. Now and then I yawned, feeling the aftermath of Sapporo, but the crowd surely woke my up when I was going to the starts."

The 30-year-old Kuitunen has won seven of her 13 races during the season, and has two runner-up finishes.

In the sprint, Kuitunen held off compatriot Riitta-Liisa Roponen, with Anna Dahlberg of Sweden finishing third. American Kikkan Randall, a 24-year-old skier from Alaska, won the B-final to finish seventh overall.

In the men's final, Petter Northug led a Norwegian sweep, finishing ahead of world champion Jens Arne Svartedal and Eldar Ronning. Yuchi Onda of Japan was fourth.

It was a second career World Cup win for the 21-year-old Northug.

"This was my first in the sprint. I tried to stay in front and control the group," he said.

Tobias Angerer of Germany still leads the overall standings.

In the hurricane sprint World Cup event, Bjorn Kircheisen of Germany beat out Felix Gottwald of Austria.

Finland's Hannu Manninen continued as the overall leader.

Gottwald finished 14.2 seconds behind, and Jason Lamy Chappuis of France was third, 30.5 back.

In the premiere for a new type, fast-paced hurricane sprint, the athletes had to prepare for the cross country portion event almost immediately after finishing their only ski jump.

They were placed to start skiing at a distance from each another based on the lengths of the jump.

Espen Rian of Norway won the jumping, as he did the day before. Rian was the only one to ski the minimum 7.5 kilometers. Eventual winner Kircheisen, a good skier, had to start 102 meters behind, and Manninen 540 meters behind after a mediocre jump.

Manninen finished 14th but increased his overall combined World Cup lead by 12 points to 119 with two events left at Holmekollen, Norway.

Manninen has 763 points, Norway's Magnus Moan 644 and Christoph Bieler of Germany 643 points.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press