WHISTLER, British Columbia – Marcus Hellner of Sweden won a sprint to the finish and edged Tobias Angerer of Germany for the gold medal in the men’s 30-kilometer pursuit cross country event Saturday at Whistler Olympic Park.

Hellner finish in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 11.4 seconds, Angerer in 1:15:13.5.

Another Swede, Johan Olsson was seventh-tenths of a second back, claiming the bronze medal by 1.2 seconds over Russia’s Alexander Legkov.

The day quickly soured for Ben Koons, the New Zealand native who’s based in Sidney, Maine, and trains at the Maine Winter Sports Center.

Starting in the 62nd spot, Koons bolted into the top 15 just three minutes into the classical portion of the race. (The first 15K is classic, the last 15K freestyle.)

By 5K, though, his debut at the Vancouver Games was over. Lapped, he was eliminated from competition, placing 59th in the field of 64. He was taken to a first aid station and unavailable for comment.

”He came up ill during the race,” Pete Wardell, chef de mission of the New Zealand delegation, said in a statement released by press attache Ashley Abbott. ”He’s as tough as old boots. He was vomiting on the course.

”Now he’s more determined than ever to come back in the 50K.”

The 50K mass start, on the closing day of the games Feb. 28, is the only race left for the 23-year-old Koons.

He holds dual citizenship with New Zealand and the United States. He was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, but he is a graduate of Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Last March, he earned his degree in environmental engineering from Dartmouth.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, he scored 65 international points, the most ever by a New Zealand skier, by placing 13th in a 15K NorAm race last month.

However, Koons was kept out of his first two scheduled Olympic events, the 15K free on Monday and individual sprint classic on Wednesday. He was among a dozen skiers whose hemoglobin levels tested high and thus were barred from competition for five days. He was tested again Thursday and was cleared to compete Saturday in the event he considers his best.

Hellner, who finished fourth in Monday’s 15K free, came into the halfway point in 11th place (39:43.5). With the fourth-quickest change of skis (22.6 seconds), he closed the gap on the Czech Republic’s Lukas Bauer, the leader at the halfway point in 39:39.0. Hellner then posted the second-best time in the free portion, 35:05.3.

Olsson was the leader with one lap of 33/4 kilometers remaining.

”I was worried, but when I felt the power in my arms and the strength in my legs in the end, I felt very good confidence,” Hellner said. ”It was pretty easy at the end.”

With his first medal at Vancouver, Angerer now has two silvers and two bronzes over three Olympics.

”The (Swedish) tactic was really good because in the end they have two medals, so they did everything right,” Angerer said. ”For me, in the end it was OK because I won the silver medal.”

Olsson now has two bronzes, the first coming in a 2006 relay.

Bauer, who earned bronze on Monday, faded to place seventh.

Petter Northug of Norway, the world champion and season World Cup leader, finished 11th. Switzerland’s Dario Colgna took 13th.

Northug was the overwhelming favorite because of his ability to simply tag along behind the leaders before blowing by them with his unrivaled sprint at the finish.

James Southam of Anchorage, Alaska, was the top American finisher in 34th. Kris Freeman of Andover, N.H., finished 45th.


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