Swiss dreams of a medal in the men's super-G were dashed on Saturday, after leading hopeful Didier Cuche slipped-up near the finish line.This content was published on February 20, 2002 - 03:06
Cuche, who hails from canton Neuchâtel, looked well placed to take the gold medal as he tore down the Snow Basin course, clocking the fastest intermediate times on the top two-thirds of the mountain.
But he failed to capitalise on his scorching start, mistiming a crucial turn at the crux of the course - a plunging right-hander nick-named "the buffalo jump" where the mountain falls away at a 70 per cent gradient.
"I went in risking all and it didn't work," Cuche said.
Cuche was billed as Switzerland's best medal chance in the super-G. While his recent World Cup form has been inconsistent, Cuche has time and again shown he has the ability to win big races. He won silver at the Winter Olympics in Nagano four years ago.
All or nothing
Speaking after the race, Cuche said the last thing he wanted was to finish fourth, narrowly missing a medal.
"In an event where hundredths of a second count, it had to be all or nothing, and I went in hard" Cuche said.
Asked whether he had been unprepared for the crux turn, the French-speaking skier said he always knew the section would be tough.
"It makes the disappointment real, the next hour will be worse," he said.
At the first timing post, Cuche was a few hundredths of second faster than the eventual winner, Norwegian Kjetil Aamodt, hitting speeds of over 91 km per hour.
After consolidating his lead at the second timing gate, he lost control, was unable to negotiate the hard right-hander and skated off the hard-packed course.
In the end, the best Swiss performance came from Cuche's team mate, Didier Defago, who placed ninth with a time of 1:22.27, just seven-tenths of a second behind Aamodt.
Veteran Olympic racer Paul Accola - competing in his fourth games - came home in ninth-place, clocking 1:23.33.
His compatriot, Tobias Gruenenfelder - skiing his first Olympics - finished 11th, a few hundredths of second slower.
Austrian gold-medal favourite Stephan Eberharter won the silver medal, after finishing the course just one-tenth of a second behind Aamodt.
swissinfo with agencies