Küttel wins first world ski jumping title

Switzerland's Andreas Küttel (right) celebrates with teammate Simon Ammann after winning the men's large hill at Liberec on Friday Keystone

Andreas Küttel of Switzerland won the large hill ski jump on Friday at the Nordic World Ski Championships after heavy snowfall cut short the competition.

This content was published on February 27, 2009 - 20:09

Küttel had a first jump of 133.5 meters for 84.3 points, which proved to be enough for his first world title after conditions became gradually worse and made it impossible to finish the second round.

Organisers made the decision after Simon Ammann of Switzerland, who six days ago placed third on the normal hill in the Czech Republic, managed only 110 metres after clearing 129 in the first round.

"I can't say I'm surprised. I feel strange but good," Küttel said. "It's my favourite discipline and the first round was fair, so I think it's okay and I'm really happy."

Ammann, who sits second in the World Cup overall standings, finished eighth.

Martin Schmitt of Germany was second on 83.4 points, and Norway's Anders Jacobsen took bronze with 82.5 points. Austrian favourite Gregor Schlierenzauer, the World Cup leader, was fourth.

The conditions at Liberec were good during the first round before the snow increased during the second. Organisers decided to restart the round when there were just seven jumpers remaining as the weather created unfair conditions for the later starters.

The restarted round was then called off midway through, with Küttel declared the winner.

Television images showed Küttel anxiously awaiting the decision from a jury meeting on whether to continue jumping, and then started hugging his coaches in celebration after the announcement was made.

The 29-year-old Küttel had never been on the podium at a world championships or Olympics and last won a World Cup event in 2007.

Good day for Switzerland

Küttel's surprise victory turned out to be the second part of a successful effort for Swiss skiers. Earlier in the day, ski racer Fabienne Suter won the women's downhill World Cup contest in Bulgaria beating overall leader Lindsey Vonn for her first win of the season.

Suter finished the race in one minute, 45.68 seconds. Austria's Andrea Fischbacher took second, at 1.15 seconds behind. Vonn, from the United States, tied for third with Italy's Nadia Fanchini, at 1.24 seconds back.

The 24-year-old from central Switzerland had cemented herself as a favourite to win after strong performances during practice runs. She has had only one top-ten finish in the event before.

"I was extremely nervous because I had never been in the role of a favourite," Suter said after the race. "The course is very steep and winding, which suits my style."

The victory in Bansko adds a bit of sweetness to Suter's career. She has logged three second-place finishes before but all of them in super-G, her strongest discipline.

Suter now stands in sixth place in the overall World Cup standings and ninth in the downhill after five of seven races.

Among the other Swiss racers, Lara Gut took fifth place, 1.46 seconds behind Suter. Fränzi Aufdenblatten was eighth (+2.34 seconds) and Martina Schild finished 15th (+3.14).

Firsts all around

Friday's race was the first World Cup race to be held in Bansko, a resort in the 2,700m Pirin mountains, 160km south of the capital, Sofia. Bansko is trying to position itself as an up-and-coming ski destination.

The World Cup downhill there replaced an earlier event in St Moritz that had to be cancelled after heavy snowfall.

Conditions proved challenging for some as the sun disappeared behind clouds to cast low contrast and poor visibility across the bumpy course, set on an icy run dubbed "Tomba" after Italian great Alberto Tomba.

"It was tough with the flat light but it was really exciting to go for it," Suter said. "It's hard to say why I had a good lead. I suppose I just had a good race."

Suter seemed to benefit from a bit of sunshine at moments, too. She was the fifth racer down the course.

Narrow gates

A Swedish racer, Anja Pärson, had complained about the race's narrow gates, which benefited Suter's style. Vonn, of the United States, crashed on the course during a practice run but suffered only a sore back.

"I'm really relieved because this was a big fight with myself," said Vonn, who is still recuperating from the thumb injury she suffered from a bottle while celebrating at the World Championships in Val d'Isère, France, earlier this month.

"The goal was to make it to the end and score points."

Friday's finish helped Vonn in that quest as she leads the overall World Cup standings with 1,434 points after 26 of 34 races. Her closest rival for that title is Maria Riesch of Germany, who lags behind by 346 points. Pärson, who did not finish Friday's race, dropped to a distant third with 960 points.

A second downhill takes place in Bulgaria on Saturday.

swissinfo with agencies

Men's large hill results

Andreas Küttel
141.3 points

Martin Schmitt
140.9 points

Anders Jacobsen
139.5 points

End of insertion

Women's downhill results

Fabienne Suter

Andrea Fischbacher

Nadia Fanchini

Lindsey Vonn
(United States)

Lara Gut

End of insertion
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