Tchepalova Wins 15K Cross-Country Pursuit

Saturday, February 19th 2005, 10:51 am
By: News On 6

OBERSTDORF, Germany (AP) _ Two-time Olympic champion Julija Tchepalova of Russia won the women's 15-kilometer pursuit at the Nordic Skiing World Championships on Saturday, making up for the disappointment of an earlier silver medal.

She pulled away steadily from favorite Marit Bjorgen of Norway and covered the hilly Oberstdorf course in 42 minutes, 16.8 seconds.

Bjorgen finished 15.7 seconds back for the silver, with Kristin Steira of Norway 25.9 behind to earn her first medal at a major event. Beckie Scott of Canada was fourth, 35.1 off the pace.

Defending champion Kristina Smigun of Estonia dropped out of the race after 6 kilometers.

Tchepalova was disappointed after Thursday's 10-kilometer race, when she missed out on the gold by just 1.2 seconds. Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic won.

``I felt deep sorrow. My daughter said: 'Can't you please win gold instead of silver or bronze?''' Tchepalova said. ``It's very satisfying to me.''

She was overlooked by the Russian team for years. But at the 1998 Olympics, she won the 30-kilometer race after being snubbed for the relay team. And four years later at Salt Lake City, she added a sprint gold, along with a silver and bronze.

Bjorgen entered Saturday's race having won seven of 14 this season. She led until Tchepalova popped up right behind her after skis were changed at the 7.5-kilometer mark. After 10 kilometers, the Russian went around Bjorgen to take first, then built her lead.

``I was a little tired. The girls were so fast. My father told me, 'You have to make a move now or you will lose,''' Tchepalova said.