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Accola wins first Swiss medal in St Anton

Accola receives the third world championships medal of his career

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Paul Accola has picked up an unexpected bronze in the men's combined event at the world skiing championships in St Anton, to give the Swiss their first medal of the tournament.

Following Monday's slalom races, the 33-year-old from Graubünden went into Tuesday's downhill more than a second and a half behind third-place Austrian Rainer Schönfelder.

But after skiing an almost flawless downhill, Accola managed to nudge Schönfelder into fourth place to claim bronze behind winner Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Austrian silver medalist Mario Matt.

Despite the size of the margin which he had to overcome Accola told swissinfo afterwards that he had always fancied his chances of retaining the medal which he won two years ago in Vail.

"I knew that (the Austrians) weren't as strong in the downhill, although they certainly went very well today," he grinned. "The downhill stage was certainly difficult. The warm temperatures made it hard to make up time on the slalom specialists because it wasn't possible to just go like a train."

In his long career, spanning seven world championships, Accola has built up a love-hate relationship both with the Swiss media and with the national ski team. Last season he came close to being slung off the team after refusing to participate in sponsorship events.

Although he seemed a happier man on Tuesday, Accola wasn't keen to discuss the team's chances of reaching their six medal target now that he has got the ball rolling.

"It doesn't matter one bit to me," he insisted. "I'm only looking at myself. The rest doesn't concern me.

"As for myself, I feel super. I'm overjoyed. I've won another medal and that was my main target. Now we'll see what happens in the giant slalom."

He may not be exactly a team player, but Accola's individual efforts over the years have made him one of Switzerland's most successful all-rounders. Tuesday's bronze was his third world championship medal, following a combined silver and a combined bronze in 1989 and 1999.

He also took an Olympic bronze in 1988, again in the combined event, before adding World Cup overall and super-G titles to his roll of honour in 1992.

by Mark Ledsom


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