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Swede is cross-country winner

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Per Elofsson of Sweden won the pursuit event Saturday at Val di Fiemme, Italy, extending his World Cup cross country lead with a half-minute victory.

Elofsson opened a 15-second lead in the 10-kilometer leg on his way to an overall time of 46 minutes, 45.8 seconds.

Norway's Thomas Alsgaard finished second, 31.4 seconds off the lead. Countryman Anders Aukland was third, followed by a pair of Estonian skiers Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae.

Russia's Larissa Lazutina won the women's 5-kilometer pursuit, as Norway's Bente Skari moved past Czech skier Katerina Neumannova in the World Cup standings by finishing third.

Elofsson, the defending World Cup champion, holds a commanding lead in the men's standings with 549 points after 11 races.

He has won three races and finished second twice.

Aukland is second in the standings with 307 points, followed by Alsgaard's 296.

Skari is also looking to defend her overall World Cup title. She holds a six-point lead over Neumannova, who finished fourth. Skari, who has won four events this season, had the best first-leg time.

Lazutina, coming off a second-place finish in the 15-kilometer event last month in Ramsau, Austria, moved up from third after the opening leg, overtaking Skari and fellow Russian Olga Danilova in the pursuit stage.

Lazutina finished with a winning time of 25 minutes, 26.1 seconds, followed by Danilova (25:42.1), Skari (25:46.2) and Neumannova (25:52.8).

U.S. CROSS COUNTRY: At Bozeman, Mont., Alaskan skiers Lars Flora and Kikkan Randall won the opening sprint races Saturday in the U.S. cross country championships.

With snow falling throughout the races, Flora, of Anchorage, held off Carl Swenson, a 1994 Olympian from Boulder, Colo., to win the men's sprint. Torin Koos of Leavenworth, Wash., was third.

The victory was worth $1,200 and strengthened Flora's bid for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which will be finalized a few days after championships conclude Jan. 13.

Randall of Anchorage, won the women's race, followed by Tessa Benoit of South Pomfret, Vt., and Barb Jones of Bozeman.