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Close finish gives Swiss skiers two top spots

Didier Cuche checks the boards upon his arrival at the finish area of the men's downhill


After grabbing the gold in a super-G contest last week, Swiss skier Didier Cuche has missed the World Championship downhill title by a mere 0.04 seconds.

Cuche's second-place finish behind Canadian John Kucera in Val d'Isère on Saturday still made for a good day for the Swiss team. Carlo Janka took third to give the men two of the three podium slots.

"I'm overjoyed," Cuche said. "It's super that it panned out again."

Other Swiss hopefuls didn't fare so well on the bumpy course full of curves, off-camber turns and swirling fog at the French resort.

Didier Défago started fast on the Bellevarde piste but did not finish after a spectacular crash took him out of the running. He was unhurt. Ten other skiers – out of a field of 38 – suffered similar fates.

Ambrosi Hoffman, the fourth Swiss skier, finished well out of the top ten with a time 3.11 seconds behind the winner.

The women's downhill team will have their chance on Sunday, also at Val d'Isère. A training run slated for Saturday had to be cancelled after the course failed to freeze overnight into the solid surface required for the event.

The women have had two training runs so far. Switzerland's Lara Gut won the first one, followed by Lindsey Vonn of the United States.

More good news

Even with the impressive showing, there was more good news for the Swiss team on Saturday. Doctors in Austria said they would begin to wake Swiss teammate Daniel Albrecht from an artificial coma two weeks after he suffered a terrible crash on a downhill training run in Kitzbühel.

"The induced coma is being reduced very slowly, while all reactions of the body are closely monitored," the Innsbruck University hospital said in a statement.

Doctors said the procedure normally takes three to four days to complete, but Albrecht's superb physical fitness could slash the time in half.

"It all depends on how the body adjusts," said Johannes Schwamberger, a hospital spokesman.

The 25-year-old suffered brain and lung injuries after he lost control on a final jump. Doctors placed him in an artificial coma to help keep his condition stable. They aborted an earlier attempt to wake him from that coma last week after he developed complications in his lungs.

Albrecht's condition had improved enough on Saturday to start the wake-up process once again.

Before his wreck, the skier from Neuchâtel had won two World Cup races this season and had been due to defend his world title in the super-combined. That event is slated to unfold on Monday, also in Val d'Isère.

swissinfo with agencies

World Championship Results (mens downhill)

1. John Kucera (Canada) 2:07.01

2. Didier Cuche (Switzerland) +0.04

3.Carlo Janka (Switzerland) +0.17

4. Marco Büchel (Liechtenstein) +0.52

5. Adrien Théaux(France) +0.94

6. Hermann Maier (Austria) +1.18

7. Werner Heel (Italy) +1,20

8. Bode Miller (USA) +1.37

9. Michael Walchhofer (Austria) +1.43

10. Klaus Kröll (Austria) +1.60

11. Christof Innerhofer (Italy) +1.61

12. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway) +1.70

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Alpine World Ski Championships

The Alpine World Ski Championships take place every two years. For 15 days, skiers will compete for medals in the same disciplines as in the World Cup.

A contest among nations, the event is divided into men's and women's events.

This year the races take place from February 2-15 at the French ski resort of Val d'Isère. It is the first time that France has organised the championships since 1968.

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