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NOTEBOOK

Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakhstan, who spent most of his time here finishing second to Norwegian skier Bjorn Daehlie, won the gold medal Sunday in the final cross-country event of the Games, the men’s classical 50-kilometer race.

Smirnov, regarded almost as a countryman by Norwegians because of his close friendship with Norwegian skier-adventurer Vegard Ulvang, drew wild acclaim from the 31,000 in the stands at the Birkebeineren stadium. The entire crowd, including those who watched from vantage points along the course, was estimated again at more than 100,000.

Smirnov finished the 31.3-mile race in 2 hours 7 minutes 20.3 seconds. Mika Myllyla of Finland was second in 2:08:41.9 and Sture Sivertsen of Norway third in 2:08:49.0, bumping Daehlie to fourth as Norwegians took four of the top 10 spots. Erling Jevne was fifth and Ulvang 10th.

Ulvang, who won three gold medals and a silver medal two years ago in Albertville, France, finished with only a silver here, that earned as a member of the second-place 40k relay team.

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Daehlie tired badly toward the end of Sunday’s race after having sat out two days of practice last week because of fatigue and a cold. He finished with four medals in these Games, two gold and two silver.

Smirnov led nearly all the way after taking the lead from Myllyla early in the race.

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Despite fading a bit down the stretch, the U.S. Alpine team can look back on one of its best Olympics ever. Paul Casey Puckett’s surprising seventh-place finish in Sunday’s slalom gave the United States at least one top-10 finisher in nine of the 10 events.

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Puckett’s excitement was dampened only by the fact that his brother, Chris, who had made the U.S. Olympic team in 1992, was not on the 1994 team.

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Italy’s Alberto Tomba said he will probably ski through the 1995 World Championships at Sierra Nevada, Spain, then decide how much longer to extend his career.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs the last few years,” said Tomba, who capped his Olympic career with a silver in the slalom. “It’s nice to finish the Olympics with a nice medal. I have a good feeling about it.”

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Times staff writer Robyn Norwood contributed to this notebook.


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