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Big Olympic team has modest hopes

Switzerland will send its largest Winter Games delegation ever to the Olympics in Vancouver but officials are aiming for fewer medals than four years ago.

The complete roster was unveiled for the first time on Tuesday. It includes 130 officials and 146 athletes – 16 competitors more than Turin in 2006. The Swiss came home from Italy that year with 14 medals. This time the goal is ten to 12.

“Of course the potential for more is very good,” Gian Gilli, the head of Swiss Olympic, told “Success for us would be to have every athlete perform his or her absolute best.”

The more modest medal count, in part, reflects a team hobbled by a rash of injuries that will leave some of its top skiers marooned away from the action on February 12-28.

Four of the women’s more promising skiers are out with injuries, leaving no Swiss woman to compete in the slalom. A women’s snowboard cross athlete and a male skeleton competitor are also too injured to compete.

That said, Gilli believes the team is still poised to excel, especially in the bobsled events.

“The bobsled team is an atomic bomb,” he told a room packed with about 100 journalists near Olten in northern Switzerland. “They are very, very strong.”

Other events with Swiss favourites include men’s figure skating with Stéphane Lambiel. Gilli said he has also been impressed with the rosters for women’s hockey and ski cross, a new event.

The men’s cross country ski team is also “atomic”, he added. “They can smell a medal,” Gilli said. “Their motivation is just brutal.”

Tim Neville in Rothrist,

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