PRAGELATO, Italy (Feb. 19) -- Italy gave the home country fans something to cheer about in Pragelato, winning the men's 4 x 10-km cross country relay. The USA was 12th, a disappointment after finishing fifth in 2002. The Italians took gold by 15.7 seconds over Germany, with Sweden taking bronze.
The USA started strong with Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) skiing strong in the first pack, only 10.8 seconds off the pace. Lars Flora (Anchorage) held close through three-fourths of his 10-km leg before fading. Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) and Carl Swenson (Boulder, CO) finished the relay with the USA ending up 12th, four minutes, 58.5 seconds behind Italy.
"I skied a great 7.5 k then the finally hill totally killed me," said Flora. "This second Olympic experience is just as good as the first. I was expecting to do a lot better. I had higher standards for my second Games and I'm disappointed with my results."
"Our standards as a team were really high after our fifth place finish in 2002. We were looking to match or better that here," said Swenson. "Kris had an outstanding first leg, we were right in it at the pass. But we faded from there. Once you get out of the lead pack, it's almost impossible to climb back in."
The next cross country event is the sprint freestyle on Feb. 22.
XX OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Pragelato, ITA - Feb. 19, 2006
Men's Cross Country Relay
1. Italy, 1:43:45.7
2. Germany, 1:44:01.4
3. Sweden, 1:44:01.7
4. France, 1:44:22.8
5. Norway, 1:44:56.3
12. United States, 1:48:44.2