WINTER OLYMPICS : Other Sports : Soviets Leave Rest Behind in Cross-Country Skiing

From Times Wire Services

So powerful is the Soviet Union's cross-country ski team that opponents at the Winter Olympics knows they are competing for second place at the Calgary Stampede Corral.

The Soviet women's team continued to dominate Nordic events by winning the 20-kilometer relay, giving the Soviet Union its fourth Olympic cross-country record at Canmore, Canada.

The victory gave the Soviets 9 of 13 possible medals after the first week of cross-country competition.

"We knew the Russians were the favorites," said Marianne Dahlmo, who anchored the Norwegian team to second place. "There was no chance for us."

The Soviet team of Nina Gavriliuk, Tamara Tikhonova, Svetlana Nagueikina and first-time Olympian Anfissa Reztsova finished in 59:51.1, defeating Norway by 1:41.9 and Finland by 2:02.7.

The USSR broke the Olympic record, set in 1980 by East Germany, by more than 2:20.

Finland's Marjo Matikainen won her third medal in as many races. She won the 5-kilometer event and was third in the 10-kilometer race.

The U.S. team of Dorcas Denhartog, Leslie Thompson, Nancy Fiddler and Leslie Krichko placed eighth in the 12-team race, completing the course in 1:04:08.8.

Three-time world champions Natalia Bestemianova and Andre Bukin of the Soviet Union, competing in their third Olympics, won the opening round of compulsory dances, as expected, in the ice dancing.

Two-time U.S. champions Suzanne Semanick and Scott Gregory got a little too close dancing the Viennese Waltz. Semanick's blade struck Gregory's, and she fell, suffering a slight knick in her leg.

The mishap dropped the couple, fifth at the 1987 world championships, to sixth in the compulsories, which account for 30% of the final score.

"It had nothing to do with the ice," Semanick said. "It was a freak thing. It just happened. We're very relieved it wasn't worse. At least we're still in striking distance."

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko of the Soviet Union, 1984 Olympic bronze medalists and three-time world silver medalists, were second, ahead of two-time world bronze medalists Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall of Canada.

Susan Wynne and Joseph Druar of the United States, skating in their second global competition, finished 12th.

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