Swiss tandem win at World Cup
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – Two victories, another podium result and the men’s overall World Cup lead. Swiss skiers are back.Switzerland’s Daniel Albrecht and Martina Schild posted a rare double World Cup win Sunday, while veteran Didier Cuche took over the men’s overall standings, demonstrating that the small Alpine nation’s decade-long slump has finally come to an end.”It’s a great day for Switzerland,” said Cuche, who finished third in the giant slalom to overtake injured reigning overall champion Aksel Lund Svindal atop the rankings.Albrecht, who was only 11th after the opening leg, delivered a stunning second run to complete the Birds of Prey course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 24.30. It marked his second win in four days, after he earned his first career World Cup win Thursday in the super-combi.Schild battled biting cold and a slick track to win the season-opening women’s super-G in 1 minute, 16.21 seconds for her first career World Cup victory.It marked the first double win for Swiss skiers since Jan. 6, 2001. Then, Sonja Nef won a GS at Maribor, Slovenia, and Michael von Gruenigen another at Les Arcs in France.Already this season, the Swiss have twice as many victories as in any of the last six seasons.Their results confirm their breakthrough last season, when Marc Berthod posted his maiden World Cup victory to end three-year winless streak for the Swiss – one that stretched to seven years in slalom.Once an Alpine skiing superpower, Switzerland fell into a deep slump over the last decade as Austria took over as the dominant nation.The last Swiss man to win the overall title was Paul Accola in 1992. The last Swiss women’s champion was Vreni Schneider in 1995.Repeated changes in the coaching staff, a focus on the nation’s stars at the cost of the development teams and poor equipment choices had all lead to Switzerland’s decline.”It’s a matter of all the World Cup group working well, now” Cuche explained. “And having consistent coaches in the last three years is helping.”Albrecht sat in the finish area watching as 10 other racers failed to match his time.”It was strange for me in the finish because everyone that went after me was faster until the last interval,” Albrecht said. “Each time I thought, ‘OK, this guy’s going to be faster.’ But each of them lost time at the bottom and finished behind me.”Austrian Mario Matt finished second, just .05 back.Cuche, who led after the opening run, made a costly mistake in the final few gates and settled for third, trailing Albrecht by .11.A speed specialist, Cuche’s only GS victory came in January 2002. The 33-year-old Swiss was also third in Friday’s downhill.”It’s frustrating because I made the podium a few times already in GS, but my only GS victory was a long time ago,” Cuche said. “I don’t want to quit my career without winning my second GS. That’s why I was pushing today. Maybe a bit too much.”After seven races, Cuche leads the overall with 235 points. Svindal dropped to second on 234. Albrecht is third with 222.Svindal, winner of the season-opening GS in October, remained hospitalized after a downhill training crash Tuesday left him with facial fractures and groin injuries. His season could be over, the team doctor said.Olympic combined champion Ted Ligety of the United States tied for fourth with Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone, missing the podium by just .04. The result allowed Ligety to overtake Svindal in the GS standings. Ligety leads with 130 points. Albrecht is second on 109. Svindal slipped to third with 100.”I’m happy being fourth,” said Ligety, whose sole World Cup victory came in a GS in March 2006 in South Korea. “I wish it were a tighter, turnier course today, but that’s what happens. I can’t count on that.”Bode Miller, who won the giant slalom here two years ago, lost his edge 45 seconds into the opening run and went down on his hip on a turn. Miller hiked up to re-ski the gate but finished more than 10 seconds off the pace.The 30-year-old American angrily left the finish area without putting on a coat or returning his race bib.Schild was second in downhill at the Turin Olympics, but her best World Cup finish was a third in super-G last year.”For the super-G I had a good feeling but was I going to win? No,” she said. “It was a run to go and risk. I tried to do it and it was very good.”Germany’s Maria Riesch, who won the downhill at Lake Louise last year, was second in 1:16.41. Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby was third, collecting her first podium finish with a time of 1:16:43.American Lindsey Vonn, who won Saturday’s downhill, fell, hit a gate and slid into the fencing. Vonn – formerly Kildow – was sore and bruised but not seriously injured.
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