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Double triumph for Swiss skiers in Sölden

Didier Cuche (left) and Daniel Albrecht (middle) celebrate their win with third-placed Ted Ligety

(Keystone)

Swiss skiers Daniel Albrecht and Didier Cuche have taken the two top spots at the season's opening the giant slalom event, in Sölden in Austria.

Albrecht won the World Cup race in 2 minutes, 15.78 seconds - 0.14 seconds ahead of speed specialist Cuche.

The Swiss duo crushed their opponents. American World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety was third, 1.25 seconds behind Albrecht. Austrian Benjamin Raich came in fourth place.

Albrecht was leading after the first run, before compounding it in the second to make Sölden his third World Cup victory.

He also became the first Swiss to win the season-opening event since Steve Locher in 1996.

The 25 year old, who hails from Valais, is the current world champion in the combined event.

"I have a little smile now because it's a victory on Austrian soil," Albrecht told reporters, referring to the traditional ski rivalry between the two Alpine nations.

"This victory is more than I could hope and I hope I will be able to continue at this level. I think I made the difference in the first run, although Didier came back strongly in the second."

Cuche, a 34-year-old ski veteran, with eight wins and 42 podium finishes on the World Cup circuit, was also pleased with the result.

"I came here for a top-ten finish so being on the podium is something surprising," he said.

However, Neuchâtel-native Cuche, who ended last season in second place in the overall standings, said he did not want to get carried away.

"You cannot imagine how good it is for skiing in Switzerland, this one-two finish. But I won't do like last season, I'm not talking about the overall standings, I'll take it race by race."

Gut start

In the Women's World Cup Giant Slalom on Saturday, Switzerland's young hope Lara Gut came 5th place. She was only six hundredths of a second from gaining a podium place.

"I knew I'd be able to get into the top 30," the 17-year-old said. "And now I know I'm capable of a top ten. That's cool."

The Swiss-Italian's career highlight on the World Cup scene is one third-place finish at her first race last year in the Swiss resort of St Moritz – despite a fall a few dozen metres from the finish line.

Media attention – and pressure – has been high on Gut, who is trained by her father Pauli. She has been hailed as a symbol of the revival of the Swiss team, which is recovering after a blank spell.

Her result and that of Albrecht and Cuche have ensured that this ski season has, at least, started with a bang.

swissinfo with agencies

World Cup

The World Cup alpine ski race circuit starts the season this weekend on the Sölden glacier in Austria with two events in the giant slalom.

Until March 15, 2009, skiers will race at 18 courses across North America and Europe. The women will race at 16 courses.

In Switzerland, the villages of Adelboden and Wengen will host two of the more prestigious races of the circuit in January.

The ski area of St Moritz will host women's races in February.

Crystal Globe trophies will be awarded for the season's best skiers in each discipline (downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and the combined).

The best overall skier gets the top prize, the Grand Crystal Globe.

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Men's event results

1. Daniel Albrecht (Switzerland), 2 mins, 15.78
2. Didier Cuche (Switzerland), 0.14 behind
3. Ted Ligety (US), 1.25
4. Benjamin Raich (Austria), 1.30
5. Thomas Fanara (France), 1.44
6. Christoph Gruber (Austria), 1.47
7. Romed Baumann (Austria), 1.56
8. Philipp Schörghofer (Austria), 1.57
9. Carlo Janka (Switzerland), 1.58
10. Bode Miller (US), 1.59

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Women's event results

1. Kathrin Zettel (Austria), 2 mins, 22.99
2. Tanja Poutiainen (Finland), 0.98 behind
3. Andrea Fischbacher (Austria), 1.48
4. Denise Karbon (Italy), 1.51
5. Lara Gut (Switzerland), 1.54
6. Maria Pietilä-Holmner (Sweden), 1.57
7. Anja Pärson (Sweden), 1.58
8. Kathrin Hölzl (Germany), 1.85
9. Lindsey Vonn (US), 2.17
10. Chemmy Alcott (Britain), 2.42

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