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PARALYMPICS: Men's cross-country relay team takes sixth place

PARALYMPICS: Men's cross-country relay team takes sixth place{mosimage}SESTRIERE, Italy The U.S. Paralympic cross-country men's team of Chris Klebl, Mike Crenshaw and 2006 double-gold medalist Steve Cook finished sixth with a time of 40 minuets, 58.0 seconds.

The gold medal went to Norway, who finished with a time of 39:58.5. Russia I took the silver medal in 40:00.1. Ukraine claimed the bronze medal with a time of 40:06.9.

Klebl, who competes in the sitting class, led the relay off with a 3.75 kilometer classic leg, coming in ninth with a split of 11:36.8. Crenshaw took it from there, skiing the 5 km classic style leg. He had a powerful race, kicking it in on the second lap to make up ground and brought the team into seventh place. Crenshaw's 5 km split was 15:48.8. Cook, racing the 5 km skate leg, was the anchor. He passed the French team to put the U.S. squad into sixth place. After battling back and forth with Russia II anchor, Kirill Mikhaylov, Cook maintained position and crossed the finish line with a 13:32.4 split, and the overall team time of 40:58.0, for sixth place.

Overall, Cook had the third-fastest skating time for the day and Crenshaw had the fourth-fastest classic time. Following the race, the U.S. team was impressed with the competition and pleased with their finish.

'It was a tough race' Cook said. 'There was quite a bit of a gap for us to make up if we wanted to win a medal. Honestly, we did as well as we could have. I think each of us gave it everything we had, and that just shows how deep the other teams are. It was fun, team events are always a lot of fun and very competitive.'

Crenshaw, 51, had a similar response. 'These relays are great, but they're just so fast. The 5 km is short. If we had more distance, I think we would have crept up there a little bit. We made up a lot of ground and put it all on the line' he said.

The women's team of Monica Bascio, Candace Cable and Kelly Underkofler finished seventh in the women's race. They finished the 3 x 2.5 km course with a total time of 27:36.8.

Bascio was the lead leg, racing sit-ski classic style. With a split time of 9:22.5, she came into the exchange area in sixth place. Cable was next, also racing sit-ski, classic style. She pulled off a 10:26.9 split, and was in seventh place when she reached the exchange, leaving Underkofler as the anchor. Underkofler, a standing athlete, skied the freestyle leg in 7:47.4 and crossed the finish line in seventh place.

The gold medal in the women's relay was won by Russia, with a time of 23:31.4. Belarus claimed the silver medal in 24:10.1, and Ukraine took bronze in 24:54.5.

It was the fifth race of the week for Underkofler, who is enjoying her second Paralympic Winter Games.

When asked how she felt about the race, she responded, 'It was fun. The relays are great because they have so much energy and you feel the team working together. It would have been nice to do a little better, but there were some really fast girls out there. I am really impressed with the competition. It is a really tough field of athletes.'

Just two days of racing remain for the U.S. Nordic team. The long distance cross country races are next, with the men's and women's sitting events on Saturday and the men's and women's standing events March 19.

- USOC

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