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Lazutina in Position for Sixth Cross-Country Gold

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Midway, Utah Feb. 15, 2002 (AP) –Russia’s Larissa Lazutina moved into position to win her sixth career Olympic gold medal Friday, even though she finished the opening portion of the women’s pursuit in second place behind teammate Olga Danilova.

Lazutina finished the 5-kilometer classic-style race two-tenths of a second behind Danilova, but Lazutina is considered a stronger skier in the freestyle technique, which will be used for Friday’s second 5K race.

Danilova covered the Soldier Hollow course in 12 minutes, 58.7 seconds. Petra Majdic of Slovenia came in third, 7.9 seconds off the lead.

Norway’s Bente Skari, the gold medalist in Tuesday’s 15K classic, is fourth, 13 seconds behind. Italy’s Stefania Belmondo, who won gold in the week’s other race, the 15K mass start, is 19th, nearly 52 seconds back. But she’s the strongest freestyle skier in the field.

The top American, Nina Kemppel, was 27th, and will begin the second race 59.4 seconds behind. Wendy Wagner was 34th, Aelin Peterson 53rd and Kikkan Randall 62nd.

Lazutina, 36, has five gold medals in three Olympics, as well as a silver and a bronze. She won this event the only time it was held on the World Cup circuit this season, with Danilova finishing second.