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Bruno Kernen wins first Swiss medal

Winner Antoine Deneriaz (centre) is flanked by silver medalist Michael Walchhofer and bronze winner Bruno Kernen (right) Keystone

Skier Bruno Kernen has won the first medal for Switzerland at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

This content was published on February 12, 2006 - 13:15

Kernen clinched the bronze in the men's downhill event on Sunday, behind Frenchman Antoine Dénériaz and Austrian Michael Walchhofer.

Dénériaz' surprise win came with a stunning late run in the time of 1 minute, 48.80 seconds, stealing gold from defending World Cup champion Walchhofer, who came in at 1:49.52.

Kernen's time was 1:49.82. The Swiss, skiing in his final winter Olympics at the age of 33-years-old, said he was very happy about his medal. Sestriere was also the scene of his World Cup win in 1997.

"To come back after nine years and win another medal at a big event is quite simply fantastic," Kernen told swissinfo. "Winning a medal at the Olympic Games has always been my dream."

Nerves

The downhill skier said he had been nervous beforehand, which meant he made some mistakes at the beginning of the race.

"I knew before starting it was my last chance to get an Olympic medal in the downhill. It was therefore difficult not to overdo it," Kernen said.

"I was quite nervous on the first part of the course and made some mistakes. Then I took a lot of risks towards the end of the race and that paid off."

Kernen's bronze is the first downhill medal for Switzerland since Pirmin Zubriggen won gold and Peter Müller silver at Calgary in 1988.

Surprise winner

Surprise winner Dénériaz had finished no better than sixth in a World Cup race this season, and that was a Super-G. However, he had the fastest run in final training on Saturday.

He beat strong contenders Walchhofer, the reigning downhill World Cup and world champion, and Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway (4th place) who was aiming for his eighth Olympic medal.

The race did not go well for the United States, whose skiers were also thought to be in with a good chance. Bode Miller came in at fifth place and Daron Rahlves, considered the favourite by many, was a disappointing tenth, 1.5 seconds slower than Dénériaz.

No other Swiss skiers managed a top-ten ranking. Tobias Grünenfelder came in 12th place, followed by Ambrosi Hoffmann in 17th. Didier Défago was placed 26th.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux in Sestriere and agencies

In brief

Born in Bern on July 1, 1972, Bruno Kernen grew up in the Bernese Oberland region.

He first took part in the World Cup in 1992 in Wengen, Switzerland.

Kernen reached the top ranks in downhill skiing in 1996, at Veysonnaz.

In 1997 he was World Champion in downhill in Sestriere, Italy, as well as silver medalist in the combination event.

In 2003 he won the bronze in the downhill at the World Championships in St. Moritz.

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Key facts

Men's downhill event results:
1. Antoine Dénériaz (France)
2. Michael Walchhofer (Austria)
3. Bruno Kernen (Switzerland)
4. Kjetil Andre Aamodt (Norway)
5. Bode Miller (US)
Plus:
12. Tobias Grunenfelder (Switzerland)
17. Ambrosi Hoffmann (Switzerland)
26. Didier Défago (Switzerland)

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