Sport: Vasaloppet

Even before he began the Vasaloppet (Vasa Run), Sweden's gut-racking cross-country skiing championship, Farmer Gunnar Larsson had good reason to feel discouraged. He had tried the 50-mile grind in eight previous races and never finished better than fourth. Now he was 35, and the long trail that led from Sälen, near the Norwegian border, to the small town of Mora, deep in the picturesque province of Dalecarlia, looked tougher than ever. Weather on the course veered from dim to foul. At the starting line, mist lay heavy over the hilltops, and skis had to...

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