Swiss skier Didier Cuche talks to swissinfo.ch about summer training, retirement rumours and his life spent clipping into and out of ski bindings.
The ski champion from canton Neuchâtel recently celebrated his 37th birthday in Ushuaia in southern Argentina, where he has been training with the men’s alpine ski team since the start of August.
Cuche will be hard pressed to equal or better his last winter season, when he was once again the motor of the Swiss ski team, winning the downhill World Cup title for the fourth time and the Super-G World Cup title.
These trophies were complemented by silver in the downhill at the World Ski Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February.
He holds six World Cup titles, achieved in three disciplines since 2007 – four downhill, one giant slalom and one Super-G.
swissinfo.ch: Can you remember how old you were when you first put on a pair of skis?
Didier Cuche: It was probably about the same time I started to walk. I could only just climb the small hill behind my house to then ski down it.
swissinfo.ch: Were your parents supportive of your decision to become a professional skier?
D.C.: I had one hundred per cent parental support, whether financial, psychological or emotional, and I never felt any pressure.
swissinfo.ch: Tell us about the start of your professional career.
D.C.: I was selected to join the national team at the age of 19 and when I was 24 I had quite a serious injury. But I managed to recover and went on to win my first World Cup race [downhill in 1998].
swissinfo.ch: How did you manage to get over the injury?
D.C.: I really had to dig deep to find the inner strength to keep going and not let myself be overcome by fears of injuring myself again.
swissinfo.ch: Right now your fans back in Switzerland are sweltering in a summer heat wave while you are here in Argentina looking for ideal snow conditions. What’s it like spending summer in ski boots?
D.C.: The thing is my job is to hunt winter conditions; when I return home to Switzerland it’s winter again. That’s really great.
On the other hand I love it here; I love Las Lenas and Ushuaia. We’ve been here several seasons before and the people are extremely friendly.
swissinfo.ch: Skiing is to the Swiss what football is to the Argentinians. That means you must be the “Maradona” of skiing…
D.C.: (laughing) That’s a great compliment, but I would never say that about myself. I’m just an ordinary man from a small country and I daren’t compare myself to Maradona.
swissinfo.ch: Is it true that you are the team’s joker and you are always in a good mood?
D.C.: I don’t know if I’m funny but we have a laugh together to help pass the winter. But we are definitely a fun team.
swissinfo.ch: Do you enjoy training?
D.C.: It’s maybe not the most enjoyable part of the sport. I prefer the four months of competition. But I’m well aware that if I don’t train I cannot reach the required level to start competing.
swissinfo.ch: Have you noticed many changes in the world of skiing since you started as a professional?
D.C.: Every year more and more skiers decide to go professional. And every year the level is higher than the previous season and it’s harder to win a competition.
What has also changed significantly is the ski material, in particular the quality.
swissinfo.ch: Do you receive sufficient support from the Swiss Ski Federation?
D.C.: I get all the help I need from the Swiss Ski Federation. It’s incredible, for example, that we are able to come here with the entire team, with all the equipment and everything [eight tonnes of skis and training equipment were flown to Argentina from Switzerland] to be able to keep training and not lose a winter season. I definitely feel I get the right support.
swissinfo.ch: There are rumours that at the end of this season you might retire…
D.C.: Who knows? I don’t. Last year I was about to retire but I found the necessary motivation to keep going… Skiing is my life.
Didier Cuche was born in 1974 at Le Pâquier in canton Neuchâtel. He mainly competes in the downhill and Super-G disciplines, along with the technical discipline of giant slalom.
He is the reigning World Cup downhill and Super-G champion for the 2011 season and has won three previous downhill titles in 2010, 2008 and 2007, as well as a giant slalom title in 2009.
Cuche has 17 World Cup race victories, along with 60 podiums (top three) and 170 top ten finishes. He is also an Olympic silver medallist and has won a total of four World Championships medals (a gold, two silvers, and a bronze).
In January 2011, Cuche became the oldest race winner in the history of the World Cup, winning the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbühel at the age of 36. It was also his fourth downhill victory on what is generally considered the most difficult and dangerous of all downhill courses. He extended his age record a week later, with another downhill win in Chamonix.end of infobox
(translated from Spanish by Simon Bradley), swissinfo.ch