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Ski jumper Benkovic wins Slovenia's first medal

OBERSTDORF, Germany -- 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.

Later Saturday, ski jumper Rok Benkovic, an 18-year-old student,
won the gold for Slovenia's first medal at a Nordic championships.

Helped by a backwind, Benkovic took a big lead on the day's best
jump of 101 meters, then went 91.5 on his second, finishing with
256 points. Jakub Janda of the Czech Republic won the silver with
249.5 points, edging World Cup leader Janne Ahonen with 249.

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.