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Blank last day for Swiss skiers

Switzerland's Von Grünigen was unable to repeat Thursday's success

(Keystone)

The alpine skiing world champioships have ended in St Anton, with Austria taking gold and silver in the men's slalom. Switzerland's Michael von Grünigen was unable to follow up on his giant slalom success, finishing Saturday's race in 22nd position.

Von Grünigen finished the final event with a combined time more than five seconds slower than eventual gold medalist and local hero, Mario Matt. The young Tyrolean was joined on the podium by Austrian team-mate Benjamin Raich and by bronze medalist Mitja Kunc of Slovenia.

While Von Grünigen will be more than adequately consoled by the giant slalom gold which he won on Thursday, there was disappointment for the rest of the Swiss contingent in Saturday's race.

The most aggrieved will be Didier Plaschy, who suffered yet another wipeout during his first run. After winning twice on the World Cup tour last year, the 27-year-old skier from canton Valais, has had a disastrous run of results this time around, only managing one finish all season.

Graubünden's Urs Imboden was another first run casualty, while Marco Casanova had to settle for 24th place.

As the closing ceremony got underway, the Swiss team were left clutching three medals - just half of the six set as the team's original target.

However, the Swiss coaches can point to a number of performances throughout the two weeks that paint a better picture than the raw statistic of medals won. Most obviously, the Swiss skiers in St Anton managed to accumulate no less than four fourth-place finishes, with Corinne Rey-Bellet particularly unlucky to have twice missed out on bronze.

The quality of the Swiss medal wins has also impressed observers, with two golds (for Sonja Nef and Michael von Grünigen) among the three podium finishes. Switzerland's gold medal tally was only bettered by the strong Austrian squad in Saturday's final race.

Second in the national medal tables, and with a clutch of performances that came close to medal glory, the Swiss effort in St Anton has also been a marked improvement on the last world championships (where the country won just two bronze medals) and would appear to bode well for next year's Winter Olympics.

by Mark Ledsom


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