It may have been run on a new course, but Saturday's World Cup downhill race in the Swiss resort of St Moritz was the setting for a familiar tale as Austrian skiers grabbed the top five places.This content was published on February 3, 2002 - 12:20
With less than a week to go until the start of the Winter Olympics, Stephan Eberharter showed once again that he will be the man to beat in Salt Lake City. Blasting down the dramatic Corviglia piste to win in a time of 1:39.07, the 32-year-old star clinched his eighth victory of the season and also made sure of this season's overall World Cup downhill title.
Eberharter's compatriots Fritz Strobl and Michael Walchhofer took second and third place to complete an all-Austrian podium for the fourth time in the downhill this season.
There was little home comfort for the Swiss crowd who had to watch their fierce rivals take seven of the top eight places, with sixth-placed Italian Kristian Ghedina the only man to break the Austrian stranglehold.
Cavegn best Swiss
After finishing in ninth place, local hero Franco Cavegn was not able to take much joy from being Switzerland's best performer.
"I am not satisfied with coming ninth," Cavegn told swissinfo in the finish area. "I had more or less a good run. There was a little mistake in the middle section but not enough to explain why I came in more than 1.2 seconds (behind Eberharter)."
Olympic medal hopeful Didier Cuche was not even able to complete the race after losing his line midway down the course. After two disappointing training runs going into Saturday's event, the skier from canton Neuchatel said he had felt forced to take some risks.
While Saturday's results made for uncomfortable reading from a Swiss point of view, the race itself served as an impressive advert for the downhill course, recently modified to form the centre-piece of next year's alpine ski world championships in St Moritz.
Although unable to cheer a Swiss winner, the crowd were treated to some spectacular jumps and the sight of a staggering 45 degree 'freefall' at the start of the piste.
Despite his performance on Saturday, Cavegn told swissinfo he was a fan of the course and was looking forward to doing better on it in 2003.
"I've had a good feeling about this course all weekend," he said, "and although the start looks daunting at first all the athletes have coped well with it. Now I just have to find out why I'm losing so much time."
by Mark Ledsom, St Moritz
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