A couple of express trains stayed right on schedule Thursday in Olympic cross-country skiing, one Norwegian, the other Russian. And in Norway's case, a switch engine was doing the hauling.
Bjorn Daehlie, winner of three gold medals and a silver in the 1992 Albertville Games, and a silver in the 30-kilometer freestyle Monday, earned his first gold before the home folks, winning the men's 10-kilometer classical race in something of an upset.
Norwegian skiers have won three of the six men's cross-country medals that have been awarded and figure to win a few more.
And Lyubov Egorova, winner of three gold medals and two silvers in '92, won her second consecutive gold--and third medal here--in the women's 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit race. With her eight medals, Egorova is two shy of the Winter Games record. Raisa Smetanina, another Russian cross-country skier, won 10 in five Olympic appearances.
Daehlie, who has a habit of fading in the sprints, hung in this time, beating not only highly regarded teammates Sture Sivertsen, the world champion at the distance, and Vegard Ulvang, the '92 gold medalist, but the best of the rest of the world as well.
His all-out finish--he collapsed in a heap after crossing the line--moved Daehlie into the lead. Then he watched nervously as first Marco Albarello of Italy, then Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakhstan, came up short. Daehlie finally relaxed when Ulvang came into view with no chance of winning.
Daehlie's time, 24 minutes 20.1 seconds, was more than 18 seconds better than silver medalist Smirnov's 24:38.3. Albarello was third in 24:42.3. Sivertsen was fifth, Ulvang seventh.
"I've had problems with the 10 kilometers, starting too hard and always being very tired at the end," Daehlie said. "Today, I felt I was going really fast, and I expected to be tired. But the last two kilometers, I thought it would be between Vladimir and me, and I knew I would really have to push myself.
"It's fantastic. With all the Norwegians here (probably more than 50,000 at the race), this is a big moment for me."
Egorova continued her ongoing duel with Manuela Di Centa of Italy. They had swapped first and second places in the first two races, Di Centa beating Egorova in Sunday's 15-kilometer freestyle event, then Egorova beating Di Centa in the five-kilometer classical event Tuesday.
The times in Tuesday's race established the starting intervals for Thursday's pursuit race, Egorova starting first with a 19-second advantage over the second-starting Di Centa. It was then up to Di Centa, and the rest of the field, to catch Egorova.
Both Di Centa and bronze medalist Stefania Belmondo, also of Italy, skied the 10k faster than Egorova, but couldn't catch her because of the differences she had established in the earlier race.
Egorova finished Thursday's race in 27:30.1 for a two-race time of 41:38.9. Di Centa had times of 27:18.4 and 41:46.7, and Belmondo, fastest in the 10k at 27:17.1, totaled 42:21.1.
"I was worried when I looked over my shoulder and saw (Di Centa and Belmondo) coming, but I thought I could hold my rhythm," Egorova said.
And she did.