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Nicorette wins Sydney to Hobart yacht race

Swedish maxi Nicorette won the Sydney to Hobart yacht race decisively today after taking a terrible battering in the final hours.

Skipper Ludde Ingvall called the win the completion of "unfinished business" _ Nicorette was forced to retire when leading in 1997.

Nicorette completed the 630 nautical miles in 2 days, 14 hours, 2 minutes, 9 seconds _ the second fastest in the race's 56-year history.

Nicorette crossed the finish line about 30 nautical miles ahead of Australian maxi Wild Thing, which finished about five hours later. The German yacht Illbruck was third, about 40 minutes back.

Not far from the finish, Nicorette was hit by 50-knot winds in Storm Bay just outside the mouth of the Derwent River. The wind shredded sails and Ingvall feared the race could have been lost there.

TENNIS: Mark Philippoussis will be sidelined several months recovering from surgery for a torn ligament in his left knee. He will miss the Australian Open and the first round of the Davis Cup.

OLYMPICS: Denied video rights in Sydney, Internet organizations will be accredited at the 2002 Winter Games. The IOC said it has agreed to accredit a limited number of Internet organizations for the Games in Salt Lake City, so their journalists can "produce some original text and content."

SOCCER: Rejecting a possible move to the Coliseum, L.A. Galaxy officials reached an agreement in principle with the Rose Bowl on a two-year lease extension. Romanian star Gheorghe Hagi received his record seventh player of the year award in an annual survey of coaches, journalists and readers by Romanian sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor.

COLLEGES: North Carolina's Meredith Florance was voted the top woman soccer player for 2000-01. As the Honda Award winner in her sport, Florance is nominated for Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.

HOCKEY: Andrew Hilbert and Richard Omberger each scored two goals to lead the United State past Slovakia 7-2 in the World Junior Championships in Moscow. The victory gave the U.S. team a 2-0-0 record in the opening round of Group A, to tie for first with the Czech Republic. Those teams meet today. In Group B, Canada and Finland tied 2-2, setting up a tight race, with Russia, Canada and Finland at 1-0-1.

SKIING: Janica Kostelic won in Semmering, Austria, for her fifth consecutive World Cup slalom of the season, in a time of 1 minute, 35.06 seconds.

FIGURE SKATING: Irina Slutskaya retained her Russian title with a clean and challenging free program in Moscow that included three triples and three triple-doubles. Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the pairs. The top three finishers in each event earned spots on the Russian team for the European Championships in February.

OBITUARY: Former jockey Eric Merlano, known more for his riding supplies business than his track accomplishments, died of lung cancer at 59.

_ Compiled from Times wires.