CNNSI.com Winter Olympics 2002 Nordic Combined Winter Olympics 2002 Nordic Combined


 

Far and away

Finland's Lajunen sweeps sprint for third gold

Posted: Friday February 22, 2002 1:42 PM
Updated: Friday February 22, 2002 2:35 PM
  Samppa Lajunen Samppa Lajunen won his third gold medal of the Games. AP

SALT LAKE (AP) -- Finland's Samppa Lajunen completed a sweep of the three Nordic combined events by winning the gold medal in the sprint on Friday.

Lajunen, the leader after Thursday's ski-jumping competition, began the 7.5-kilometer cross-country race at Soldier Hollow 15 seconds ahead of Germany's Ronny Ackermann. Lajunen kept the lead for most of the race and finished nine seconds ahead of Ackermann.

"The guy in front of me was the very best, and an incredible jumper," Ackermann said. "I tried to the very last second to give it all I had. Today I couldn't make it."

Felix Gottwald of Austria moved up eight spots to take the bronze.

"I had no chance to catch the leaders, but anyway I am very happy with my bronze," Gottwald said. "Lajunen is in top shape, and it was impossible to beat him."

Felix Gottwald of Austria moved up eight spots to take the bronze.

Todd Lodwick started 12th but finished fifth, the best showing ever by an American in the sport.

Lodwick held fourth until the final kilometer, when he was overtaken by Finland's Jaakko Tallus.

The Finns hadn't won a gold medal in Nordic combined since 1948 entering these Olympics, but they were far and away the best. Lajunen won the individual, with Tallus finishing second, and Lajunen also anchored the Finns' winning team in the relay.

The victory in the sprint competition, which made its debut at these games, gave Finland all three golds and made Lajunen the first Finnish athlete to win three golds at one Olympics since ski-jumper Matti Nykanen in calgary, 1988.

Lajunen finished second in the two events in Nagano, and he was helped immensely by the sudden retirement of double-gold medalist Bjarte Engen Vik last year.

 
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