Fin Lajunen Wins Nordic Combined Gold

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Midway, Utah Feb. 10, 2002 (AP by Landon Hall)--Samppa Lajunen of Finland won the gold medal in the Nordic combined Sunday after finishing first in the 15-kilometer cross-country race.

Jaakko Tallus of Finland won the silver and Felix Gottwald of Austria won the bronze.

Todd Lodwick was seventh, the highest finish for an American athlete in the sport's Olympic history. Rolf Monsen's ninth-place showing in 1932 was the previous best finish for a U.S. athlete.

Americans Matt Dayton and Bill Demong were 18th and 19th, respectively. The other American, Johnny Spillane, was 32nd.

Lajunen and Tallus gave their country its first 1-2 finish in the men's event since Heikki Hasu and Martti Huuhtala claimed the top two spots in 1948.

Lajunen, third on the course in the staggered start based on results from Saturday's ski jumping portion, finished in 39 minutes, 11.7 seconds. He made up 53 seconds on countryman Tallus, who started first.

Lajunen slowed as he entered the stretch run, grabbed a Finnish flag from the cheering gallery and carried it the final 100 meters to victory.

Gottwald turned in a poor first jump Saturday and started 11th in the cross-country race, but he rallied on the Soldier Hollow course and outfinished Ronny Ackermann of Germany for the bronze.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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