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Nef takes gold in St Anton

Sonja Nef shows her delight at her giant slalom win

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Sonja Nef has won the gold medal in the women's giant slalom at the world skiing championships in St Anton on Friday. It was the second gold medal for Switzerland in as many days.

Nef clinched her first ever world title with a combined time of two minutes, 19.01 seconds, 1.10 seconds ahead of Italy's Karen Putzer. Having already clinched the World Cup giant slalom title, Nef told swissinfo that Friday's triumph had capped a perfect season.

"It couldn't have gone any better - it's been a fantastic season," she grinned. "I was already overjoyed about winning the World Cup title and now I've realised by big dream of becoming world champion. I'm just so happy."

The bronze medal went to Sweden's Anja Paerson, who completed the race in two minutes, 20.52 seconds.

Another Swiss skier, Lilian Kummer, came in a surprise fourth with a time of two minutes, 29 seconds. Kummer only managed to come 15th in the opening leg.

Nef's achievement means Switzerland boasts the gold medals in both the women's and men's giant slalom events. Michael von Grünigen was crowned world champion in the men's event on Thursday.

Nef, who was hot favourite to win, appeared not to have been put off by a 45-minute delay to the start of Friday's race, as organisers cleared fresh snow from the piste.

She completed her first run in a breath-taking time of one minute, 09.76. Putzer, who finished in one minute, 10.12 seconds, was the only skier within a second and a half of Nef going into the second run.

"At the top I thought 'Putzer is 36 hundredths of a second behind me but the others are a lot further off.' Still I didn't want silver or bronze, just the gold.

"I knew that I was in good form, and was standing well on my skis. I just had to attack the piste because then you're able to react if there are any mistakes. I had prayed that it would all come together and I'm very happy that it did."

Barring a major upset in Saturday's final race, the men's slalom, the Swiss team are not going to come away from St Anton with the six medals that they had targeted before the championships began.

But after winning two gold medals, and taking fourth spot four times, Switzerland's late flourish will be seen as a sign of solid progress since the last world championships, when the country managed just two bronze medals.

by Mark Ledsom


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