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Medal anguish for Beltrametti

Beltrametti's exertions were to end in disappointment

(Keystone)

Slapped on the back by Hermann Maier, congratulated by colleagues and interviewers, Swiss youngster Silvano Beltrametti had apparently secured the bronze medal in the world skiing championships downhill race. Then the prize was cruelly ripped away.

The second skier to start Wednesday's race, Beltrametti tore down the tough Karl Schranz course in a blistering time of 1'39"37. Of the big names that followed him, only the Austrians Hannes Trinkl and Hermann Maier were able to ski faster.

But just minutes after the celebrations had begun in the Swiss camp, another young talent decided to crash the party. Virtually unknown before today, Germany's Flori Eckert celebrated his 22nd birthday by shaving 11 hundredths of a second of Beltrametti's time.

"It is hard," Beltrametti told swissinfo after watching Eckert's performance, "but that's the sport. You have to wait until the last skier is down and then you know that you have a medal.

"Now somebody's skied faster than me and I'm fourth. But all I can say is that I skied a good race and that's that."

A year younger than Eckert, the 21-year-old Beltrametti is seen as the hottest young star of the Swiss team. Few will doubt his ability to bounce back from Wednesday's disappointment. After all, he has come back from much worse in the past.

A year ago, Beltrametti's future in professional skiing was in serious doubt following an horrific crash in the Lauberhorn race at Wengen. He spent the rest of the season recovering in Australia.

His rise from crash victim to medal hopeful began at the start of this season, when he secured second place in the downhill at Lake Louise, his first race back since the Lauberhorn.

Consistently solid performances this season have lifted Beltrametti to 7th in the World Cup downhill standings and, more importantly, given the youngster from Graubünden the confidence to look further ahead.

"I have to be quiet now and look forward to the next world championships," Beltrametti insisted on Wednesday. "I know that I can ski fast and reach my goals, but I need time, because I'm only 21 years old."

Before the 2003 championships in St Moritz, though, there is the small matter of next February's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And although Beltrametti emphasises the need for patience, he clearly wouldn't say no to some more early success.

"I hope things aren't the same as today in Salt Lake City," he smiled. "I'll be hoping to get a medal there."

After coming within two tenths of a second of Hermann Maier, and receiving congratulations, albeit prematurely, from the mighty Austrian, Beltrametti on Wednesday showed a strength of character worthy of the Herminator himself. And in true Herminator spirit, he'll be back.

By Mark Ledsom


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