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Olympic medallist returns for seconds

Laurence Rochat is hoping for a result to smile about at the Turin Games Keystone

After winning a bronze medal with the women's cross-country relay team at the previous Winter Olympics, Laurence Rochat is raring to go at the Turin Games.

At 26, Rochat is in peak condition and will be looking for top-ten finishes in a number of races.

In February 2002, the women’s relay – comprising Andrea Huber, Brigitte Albrecht, Natascia Leonardi and Rochat – brought back a historic bronze medal from Salt Lake City. It was the first team podium since the men’s third-place finish at the Sapporo Games in Japan 30 years earlier.

“It’s a day that will stick forever in my mind – it was simply marvellous,” said Rochat. “It gives me hope when things aren’t going so well.”

Cross-country medals have been few and far between for Switzerland at the Olympics since the first Games in Chamonix in 1924. Swiss skiers have managed to get on the podium only four times.

Apart from the two relay medals, Sepp Haas finished third at the Grenoble Games in the 50-kilometre event in 1968 and Andy Grünenfelder did the same two decades later in Calgary.

Different mindset

Four years after earning her medal in the United States, Rochat says she is headed for Turin with a more mature outlook.

“In 2002, it was a dream come true just to qualify for the Olympics,” she told swissinfo. “I was only 22 and I didn’t know what to expect. This time I’m going to Italy with a totally different mindset.”

Rochat has still not decided in which events she shall take part, although the relay with Leonardi as well as Seraina Mischol and Doris Trachsel seems a foregone conclusion.

The team qualified for the Olympics on January 15 in the Italian resort of Val di Fiemme by finishing seventh in a World Cup race.

That leaves the sprint, the ten-kilometre race, the 30-kilometre event and possibly the 15-kilometre pursuit to choose from. Rochat’s choice will depend on how she feels on the day and also on how the first races pan out.

“I know lots can happen at Olympics,” she said. “Four years ago, I dropped out of my first race in Salt Lake City, and then four days later I had a medal around my neck.”

Physical prime

Rochat would like to earn a diploma at the Games, meaning finishing in the top eight of one of the races she takes part in.

“I want to make the most of this time when everybody is taking an interest in cross-country skiing,” she added.

The Swiss athlete is now reaching her prime in the physically demanding sport of cross-country skiing and can now handle bigger efforts.

“It’s true that I can demand more of myself and I recover better than in the past,” she said.

And while the Turin Games might be Rochat’s immediate career goal, they probably won’t be her last. At the Vancouver Games in 2010, she’ll only be 30.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux

Laurence Rochat was born August 1, 1979.
She has taken part in the cross-country skiing World Cup since 1998.
She has been Swiss champion on a number of occasions and has represented Switzerland at the world championships as well as the Salt Lake City Games.
Besides competing at the top level of her sport, Rochat also works part-time for watchmaker Audemars Piguet in human resources.

In competition, cross-country skiing is divided into two techniques: classical and freestyle, with separate men’s and women’s events.

In the classical technique, movement is made by using alternate movements of the arms and legs, as in walking, but with a more elongated stride.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR