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If Lake Placid doesn't get a major snowfall soon, the cross-country courses will be abbreviated to 25 kilometers of gentle terrain under man-made snow. Distances will stay the same—the racers will go round and round—but the steeper ups and downs will be limited. Nevertheless, the best racers should still win. Finland's Juha Mieto and Norway's Oddvar Bra are in top form, as ever, facing only one mystery: because the Soviets never compete internationally before an Olympics, nobody knows what they're up to—although normally their women's team is unbeatable. America's Bill Koch seeks an upset in the 15-K, in which he beat Mieto once this season. In the jumps, Austria, East Germany and Finland hold hot hands, but Jim Denney of the U.S. could be our ace in the sky.