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Cuche wins first ski race of the season

Didier Cuche on his way to clocking his fastest time during the first run at Sölden

(Keystone)

Swiss veteran Didier Cuche has won the opening men's World Cup race of the Olympic season, a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier in Austria.

Cuche clocked a two-run combined time of two minutes, 21.45 seconds in Sölden on Sunday. Cuche's teammate Carlo Janka was third, 0.95 seconds back.

Ted Ligety of the United States was in second place. The top three held their positions from the opening run.

Cuche is the defending World Cup giant slalom champion, while Ligety won the small crystal globe two seasons ago. Janka won the giant slalom at last season's world championships in Val d'Isere, France.

The 35-year-old Cuche was able to use his superb gliding skills to great advantage in the Sölden race.

The Swiss was trailing Ligety at the final checkpoint of the second run, but maintained his speed on the flatter section before the finish to clinch the win.

"A lot of weight brings me so fast to the finish," Cuche said half-jokingly after the race. "It was not easy because I had a lot of pressure... but I stayed cool."

Unlike Ligety, Cuche also excels in the speed events of downhill and super-G and is more adept at skiing the flats.

"Both runs I lost at least six-tenths to Cuche on the bottom. That's a big difference to make up in a race," Ligety said. "He's a downhill skier, so you definitely see his strength down there in the straighter, faster section."

Women's race

On Saturday, Tanja Poutiainen of Finland won the women's giant slalom in Sölden, but the Swiss women failed to make the top ten. Fabienne Suter was the best placed at number 12.

Cuche is considered one of the cornerstones of the Swiss ski team, which over the past three years has revamped itself as a dominant force on the ski circuit.

At Val d'Isere last year the national team usurped Austria for the first time in a decade to win six medals from ten events. In the World Cup, the men's team also won eight times and the women's team stood 12 times on the winning podium.

Dominating this season is the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver in Canada, which starts on February 12 next year. At a media conference earlier this month, Swiss Ski President Urs Lehmann said that the team was aiming for six medals at the games, even if they are without injured teenage star Lara Gut.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

Race results

1. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 2 minutes, 21.45 seconds (1:09.89-1:11.56)

2. Ted Ligety, United States, 2:22.05 (1:10.25-1:11.80)

3. Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 2:22.40 (1:10.40-1:12.00)

4. Massimiliano Blardone, Italy, 2:22.41 (1:10.48-1:11.93)

5. Benjamin Raich, Austria, 2:22.90 (1:10.64-1:12.26)

6. Kjetil Jansrud, Norway, 2:23.27 (1:11.88-1:11.39)

7. Jean-Baptiste Grange, France, 2:23.87 (1:11.51-1:12.36)

8. Davide Simoncelli, Italy, 2:24.03 (1:12.13-1:11.90)

9. Jean-Philippe Roy, Canada, 2:24.08 (1:11.37-1:12.71)

10. Cyprien Richard, France, 2:24.13 (1:11.98-1:12.15)

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