Swiss world snowboarding champion Ursula Bruhin has failed to secure a place at next month's Winter Olympics after missing out on first place at the national trials in Grindelwald by just 23 hundredths of a second.This content was published on January 6, 2002 - 11:43
The 32-year-old alpine specialist has become the first high-profile victim of a controversial selection process which lends little weight to previous performances on the FIS and ISF tours.
Despite coming second in Saturday's slalom race, Bruhin paid dearly for her disappointing performance during the first of the two national trials in Laax, where she failed to make it into the last 16.
"Us riders had already told the association that a mere two races were not sufficient to determine Olympic places," a distraught Bruhin complained. "One bad result and you've had it."
The prospect of Bruhin not going to Salt Lake City was almost unimaginable just a few weeks ago and the news was greeted with near disbelief by team-mates and training staff alike.
ISF world champion Steffi von Siebenthal insisted that Bruhin had been the "victim of an unfair qualifying system."
"From the sporting aspect it's certainly not the best solution," agreed Swiss team trainer Jürg Matti. "We're simply not in the position to reject a boarder of Ursula's class."
Bruhin's loss in Nadia Livers' gain. After narrowly beating the world champion into second place on Saturday, the virtually unknown rider from Flims will now take up a highly unexpected place in the Swiss team alongside the two Davos boarders Daniela Meuli and Milena Meisser.
The fourth place in the Swiss team is expected to go to von Siebenthal who was unable to take part in the qualifying races after injuring her shoulder shortly before the Laax meeting.
Schoch makes sure
On the men's side, canton Zurich rider Philipp Shoch made sure of his Olympic place in the alpine category after winning Saturday's slalom by more than half a second. Shoch joins Gilles Jaquet and Nagano bronze medallist Ueli Kestenholz, who had already made sure of their tickets to Salt Lake City.
The last remaining place on the men's team has become the subject of another headache for the Swiss snowboard association after the two rival candidates for the berth finished Saturday's qualifier in a dead heat.
Simon Schoch (Philipp's brother) and Urs Eiselin both reached the Grindelwald finish line with identical times of 2'09"51, prompting the association to call for a deciding 'run-off'.
That is likely to be staged on Tuesday or Wednesday as part of the FIS World Cup event in Arosa. But the Swiss association must first ask the FIS to put the two men into the same starting group to ensure that neither has an unfair advantage.
Should that not prove possible the tortuous Swiss qualifying process may have to be prolonged even further with the ISF World Cup race in Leysin offering a later opportunity to separate the two candidates.
Top freestylers through
Sunday's qualifying action in the freestyle category passed by without any further controversy.
World halfpipe champion Fabienne Reuteler grabbed the single Swiss freestyle place, following up her win in Laax with an assured victory in Grindelwald.
Having gone out and secured the place for the Swiss team with her success on the FIS tour, Reuteler had been one of the qualifying process's most ardent critics when faced with the chance that she might not actually be the one to fill that place. Fortunately for the 22-year-old from Zurich, though, her perfomances over both qualifying rounds gave her opponents no opportunity for an upset.
Therry Brunner booked his place on the men's freestyle team with similar ease, adding victory in Grindelwald to his earlier win in Laax. With Olympic champion Gian Simmen having already made sure of his place at Salt Lake City, Marcel Hitz was able to grab the third and last spot in the freestyle category.
swissinfo with agencies