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Family rivalry fuels Schochs

Philipp Schoch (right) and brother Simon show off their medals Keystone

Brothers Philipp and Simon Schoch are set to return to Switzerland on Friday after winning gold and silver in the men's parallel giant slalom at the Winter Olympics.

This content was published on February 24, 2006 - 12:10

Philipp Schoch told swissinfo that riding against each other in the final - a rare event at the Olympics - had been a dream come true for both brothers.

"It was unbelievable for me to compete in the final with my brother. It's simply the best thing that could happen," Philipp said.

"We had a lot of fun riding together and we said to each other at the top of the run that we would race each other and the best on the day would win."

With his gold, 26-year-old Philipp successfully defended his Olympic title won four years ago at the Salt Lake City Games. But it was the first Olympic medal for Simon - who is one year older - after he missed out in 2002.

Brothers in arms

The brothers describe themselves as best friends and enjoy lots of mutual hobbies, such as mountain biking and wake boarding. They have been racing each other since childhood.

As Simon entered the Turin Olympics first in the World Cup rankings and Philipp second, the two were not surprised to meet each other in last Wednesday's final.

The result meant that they became the first set of brothers in more than 20 years to win gold and silver medals in the same event at the same Olympic games.

United States duo Phil and Steve Mahre were the last to do so, coming first and second in men's slalom ski event in Sarajevo in 1984.

The Swiss have won a bumper crop of medals in the snowboarding events during the games. Tanja Frieden earlier won gold in the women's snowboard cross, while Daniela Meuli became Olympic champion last Thursday in the women's giant parallel slalom.

Funding problems

However, the sport has been suffering from a lack of funding. Two years ago, four riders, including the Schochs, even threatened to go off and race for another country if the situation did not improve.

Financing has since got better, says Swiss snowboarding coach, Franco Giavanoli, with the team now receiving SFr1.3 million ($1 million) a season. But riders still have to dip into their pockets to cover expenses on tour and training costs.

Philipp said one of the problems was a lack of sponsors.

"We can live from what we get, even if we can't put much money aside. We're just managing to get through the season. But it could be more and that would be easier for us," he told swissinfo.

The snowboarder admitted that the funding question affected all non-mainstream sports in Switzerland.

"A sport's image is very important in Switzerland, and the better the image the more money you can make from it. But if the image is not so good then it's not so interesting for sponsors."

However, he added that he hoped the situation might change in the future.

As for what comes next, Philipp said that the brothers had no intention of resting on their laurels.

"On Monday we'll be flying on to Russia for the next World Cup competition. So we're going straight on to the next thing."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

In brief

Philipp Schoch is 26. He is the winner of two winter Olympic golds, in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006. The former machine operator has now turned professional.

Simon Schoch is 27 and a silver medal winner at the Turin games. The former bricklayer is now also a professional snowboarder.

The brothers were introduced to the sport by their father. They have both reached high levels in other sports, Philipp in Schwingen, a popular form of wrestling in Switzerland, and Simon in mountain biking.

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