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Cuche wins national title

Cuche (centre) celebrates on the podium with Defago and Zurbriggen

(Keystone)

Didier Cuche has won the Swiss giant slalom skiing title, ending a sequence of disappointments in the national competition.

A former Swiss champion in both the downhill and super-G disciplines, Cuche had never even managed a top ten finish in the national giant slalom competition prior to Tuesday's success.

With reigning Swiss world giant slalom champion Michael von Grünigen recovering from a shoulder operation, Cuche began the race in Visperterminen as the hot favourite and this time he didn't disappoint.

After taking the lead during the day's first run, the 27-year-old from Neuchâtel held on during the second run to finish more than four tenths of a second ahead of his first team colleague Didier Défago.

Young talent Silvan Zurbriggen provided the biggest surprise of the day by taking third place to deny retiring star Steve Locher a place on the podium.

Obligation

"After my weak showings in recent giant slalom national championships, I felt an obligation to win here," said a relieved Cuche immediately afterwards.

The national title marked a further triumph for Cuche in a season that has offered plenty of highs but also a fair share of lows.

After celebrating his first ever giant slalom World Cup win on the home snow of Adelboden in January, Cuche went on to secure a second tour triumph in March during the final super-G race of the season - simultaneously ending a ten-year Swiss drought in the discipline.

Olympic disappointment

His overall consistency throughout the season also saw Cuche finish third in the men's overall World Cup standings. There was disappointment at the Winter Olympics though, with Cuche returning empty-handed from Salt Lake City.

Tipped as a possible medal contender in his three racing categories, the Swiss star had to settle for tenth place in the Olympic giant slalom and 14th in the downhill. His greatest misfortune came in the super-G, however, when he lost control of his skis when apparently just seconds away from a possible gold medal.

Cuche will have the chance to add some further shine to his season next week when the weather-disrupted Swiss championships reach their climax. The men's competition ends with a super-G race on April 9 in St Moritz while the women are due to contest a super-G and giant slalom on April 10 and 11 in Arosa.

swissinfo with agencies


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