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Alpine ski season starts in earnest

Michael von Grünigen had to settle for fourth place in Sölden


Switzerland's alpine skiers will be hoping that last month's giant slalom races in Sölden were nothing more than a bad dress rehearsal when the season proper gets underway in Utah on Thursday.

Three weeks without competition have passed since the opening events in Austria. Michael von Grünigen and Didier Cuche were the only Swiss skiers to figure in the points, after finishing the men's giant slalom in fourth and seventh place respectively.

This weekend's programme comprises slaloms and giant slaloms for both men and women. Following the successes of Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter in Sölden, the Austrians are once again favourites to dominate the season.

Last year the skiers of Austria won 39 races, practically half of the World Cup events. In the men's downhill, Super G and giant slalom events, the Austrians failed to win on just five occasions.

This season the Swiss contingent are promising greater things, with the team aiming in particular for six medals at the St Anton World Championships in February.

Despite last month's early disappointments, Switzerland's head trainer, Dieter Bartsch, says he's confident the team will show marked improvement this time around.

"It's not just the trainers who are expecting more this winter, it's also the athletes," Barthsch insisted. "We have become stronger and we believe that we will be among those fighting for victories."

The speed specialists must wait one more week for their opening event, when the men travel to the Canadian resort Lake Louise for downhill and Super G races, while the women head for Aspen and a Super G.

swissinfo with agencies

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