Winter Olympics: Yegorova's sixth gold

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LJUBOV YEGOROVA claimed her place in the Olympic record books at Lillehammer yesterday when she secured the sixth gold medal of her career. The 27-year-old Russian cross- country skier equalled the tally of Lydia Skoblikova, a Soviet speed skater from the 1960s, as the most successful Winter Olympics gold medal winner of all time, when she steered the Russian women's team to victory in the 4 x 5km relay.

'I don't run after records,' Yegorova said. 'I simply work. I don't care if I get the record or not.' Starting the final leg of the relay one second behind Norway's Anita Moen, she produced a stirring performance to win by 30 seconds and claim her third gold medal of the games, maintaining her unprecedented success rate in taking gold or silver in all nine of her Olympic races.

Yegorova moved to within one medal of the overall Winter Games record of 10, held by a Soviet cross- country skier, Raisa Smetanina. She is expected to equal the latter's tally in Thursday's 30km event, although she doubts that it will be another gold. 'I don't have a very good chance, but I will do my best,' she said. 'This is the last race and it's hard to run such a long distance. From a psychological viewpoint, it won't be that easy.'

'I was happy because I realised it was a victory for the team as much as a victory for me,' she added after yesterday's victory. 'I worked hard for my victory. I worked for my team and succeeded.'

Yegorova, who won three gold medals in Albertville two years ago, is vying with Norway's cross-country skier, Bjorn Daehlie, for the biggest medal haul of the Games. Yegorova now has three golds and one silver, while Daehlie's tally is two golds and one silver.

The reigning world champion, Emese Hunyady of Austria, won the women's 1,500 metres speed skating gold medal, overcoming the favourite, Gunda Niemann of Germany. Hunyady's time of 2min 2.19sec was well outside the world record of 1:59.30 set by East Germany's Karin Kania nearly eight years ago in Kazakhstan, but it was a personal best for the 27-year-old Hunyady, a native of Hungary.

Russia's Svetlana Fedotkina also claimed a personal best, taking the silver in 2:02.69 despite stumbling slightly as she came out of the final bend. Niemann, who fell in the 3,000 metres event on Wednesday while setting a record pace, set off very slowly and struggled to the bronze medal in 2:03.41, almost two seconds slower than her personal best.