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Slow start for Swiss Olympians

Andy Hartmann performs well for Switzerland at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics

Swiss athletes put in a healthy performance on the first day of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but have yet to bring home a medal.

Stefania Belmondo from Italy won the women’s 15km freestyle cross-country in a time of 39 minutes and 54.4 seconds thus claiming the first gold medal of the Games.

Larissa Lazutina of Russia won the silver, a further 1.8 seconds behind and Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic took the bronze.

The best Swiss cross-country skier, Natascia Leonardo, came in at 16th place. From canton Ticino, Leonardo made the best time of her career finishing the 15 km race in 41 minutes and 56.3 seconds.

Brigitte Albrecht, the other Swiss contender, finished 32nd with a time of 42 minutes and 54.4 seconds.

Nordic combined

Swiss athlete Andy Hartmann put in an excellent performance in the Nordic combined individual competition at the Olympic Park of Salt Lake City.

The first jump put Hartmann in sixth place with 93.5 meters and 120.5 points for style. A slight spread in the skis on his second jump dropped him back in the rankings, however he did manage to cruise over the crucial 91 meter mark gaining 116 points.

The two scores combined together give him a ninth place overall. This serves to determine the starting order in the 15km cross-country race at Soldier Hollow on Sunday. His ranking means he will leave only 2 minutes and 35 seconds behind the leader.

To swing a medal Hartmann needs to be in the first three skiers over the finish line on Sunday.

Freestyle skiing women’s moguls

Rather more disappointing results came in from the 27-degree Deer Valley slope. Swiss skier Corinne Bodmer came in 26th in the qualifying round with 20.28 points which was well off the mark for qualification in the finals of the freestyle moguls event.

Only the best 16 contenders from the qualifying round get to compete in the finals.

The 32 year-old from Lausanne had a slight loss of balance five mounds before the second jump which prevented her from performing her double “daffy” as planned.

Defending champion Kari Traa, from Norway won the qualifier with 25.11 before grabbing a gold in the finals.

The Norwegian finished with a score of 25.94, while America’s Shannon Bahrke claimed silver with 25.06 and Japan’s Tae Satoya the bronze on 24.85.

Men’s cross-country skiing

In the 30 km freestyle cross-county men’s final on Saturday, Spain got the gold in one hour nine minutes and 28.9 seconds.

Johann Mühlegg racing for Spain won by more than two minutes. Austria’s Christian Hoffmann and Mikhail Botvinov took silver and bronze respectively.

The best Swiss was Patrick Mächler who finished 29th, more than thirty minutes behind the leader.

The other Swiss competing in the event were Gion-Andrea Bundi who took 35th place, Wilhelm Aschwanden who ranked 39th and Patrick Rölli who came in 40th.

Bets are open

The 114 Swiss athletes competing in Salt Lake City Winter Olympics this year are hoping to equal their 1998 Nagano performance, which gave Switzerland seven medals.

The Swiss Sports Minister, Samuel Schmid, is in Utah this week-end in a show of support for the Swiss team before high level talks in Washington and New York.

Schmid told journalists in the Swiss house of the Olympic Village that he was certain the Swiss would bring back 8 medals this year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR