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Cuche hailed as "engine" of Swiss ski team

Didier Cuche lifts the crystal globe trophy after winning the men's downhill title Keystone

Switzerland's men skiers crowned a successful World Cup season, with the highpoint being Didier Cuche clinching his second straight downhill title.

This content was published on March 16, 2008 - 18:25

It was a different story for the women – top skiers Nadia Styger and Martina Schild were not always on consistent form, but Fabienne Suter and Lara Gut did better than expected.

Cuche was third in the overall men's World Cup rankings. He might have added the Super G title to his trophies, but lost by just one point.

But men's team trainer, Martin Rufener, is pleased about the downhill win.

"There's just one word that can sum up this achievement – super!" Rufener said.

He added that the 34-year-old's victory was all the more important because of the bad ligament injury he had sustained three years ago.

Rufener praised the fact that Cuche now skied faster and more reliably after his lengthy convalescence. "He's a fighter and he works more than the others," he told swissinfo earlier this week.

The trainer said that Cuche's successful summer training had been key, as well as good equipment and – most importantly - a good technician to look after his skis.

"He's our engine, with all his podium places he has created a winning dynamic, while raising the pressure on the others," commented Rufener at a weekend news conference.

Older and wiser

Cuche dominates the speedy downhill discipline in the Swiss camp, despite being the "oldie" of the team. He has regularly beaten Marc Berthod and Daniel Albrecht, both in their early twenties.

Cuche's only downhill victory this season came in the prestigious Kitzbühel race in January. But he finished second four times, including the Lauberhorn in Wengen, and third once.

For their part, Berthod and Albrecht, known as the "twins" as they were both born in 1983, did exceptionally well in the Swiss resort of Adelboden, with Berthod winning the giant slalom race ahead of Albrecht.

Rufener says that Cuche's self control is what separates the man from the boys at the moment. Albrecht has had podium finishes in the slalom and super combined races. Berthod has been less successful, but has been suffering from an ankle injury.

"They are not yet at their best level of performance," said Rufener of his two all-rounders, adding that their best time was yet to come.

The trainer was disappointed by the results of speed specialists Ambrosi Hoffmann and Tobias Grünenfelder. His hopes now rest on the twins for the next world championships and the Winter Olympics in Canada in 2010.

Ups and downs

In the women's camp, Styger and Schild each won a race, but finished 17th and 23rd respectively in the overall ladies' rankings.

The big surprise of the season was Suter, who won the two last Super G events. It marks a return to form for Suter, who did not race between 2003 and 2006 because of injury.

"By winning these two last Super G, she has finally confirmed her incredible potential," women's trainer Hugues Ansermoz told reporters.

The 16-year-old ski prodigy Gut finished third in her first downhill race in the Swiss resort of St Moritz in February. Gut also clocked up an overall win at this year's Europa Cup.

swissinfo, based on a German article by Renat Künzi

Key facts

The Swiss ski team's result this season was the best for 12 years.
There were 10 World Cup wins: 6 for the men, 4 for the women.
Last winter there were only 2 such wins.
In 2005 the team won no medals at all.

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Men's World Cup overall rankings

1. Bode Miller, United States, 1,409 points
2. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 1,298
3. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1,263

7. Daniel Albrecht, Switzerland, 795
9. Didier Defago, Switzerland, 645
21. Marc Berthod, 411

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Women's World Cup overall rankings

1. Lindsey Vonn, United States, 1,403 points
2. Nicole Hosp, Austria, 1,183
3. Maria Riesch, Germany, 1,146

17. Nadia Styger, 474
21. Fabienne Suter, 357
23. Martina Schild, 354

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