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Rey-Bellet misses out as Cavagnoud soars

A disappointed Rey-Bellet watches the closing stages of the race

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Corinne Rey-Bellet was just two tenths of a second from medal glory on Monday as the alpine skiing world championships got underway in St Anton, Austria.

After keeping pace in the early stages with eventual winner, Régine Cavagnoud of France, the 28-year-old from canton Valais dropped back on the middle part of the course before finishing in sixth place.

"It felt like a good race," Rey-Bellet told swissinfo afterwards. "I was fast at the top, but in the middle the snow was getting softer and softer which made things more difficult.

Monday's race was the most closely fought super-G in world championship history with just half a second's difference between first and tenth place. By finishing sixth, Rey-Bellet equalled her best ever performance at a world championship tournament, but that was of little consolation to the Swiss skier.

"I am disappointed," she said, "because at the world championships medals are the only things that count."

For Cavagnoud, Monday's victory marked her fourth super-G win in a row, following three straight wins on the World Cup tour. Her performances this season had already made the Frenchwoman hot favourite to win the gold in St Anton, but it wasn't that long ago that she would have been a rank outsider.

Success has come late in Cavagnoud's career. The 30-year-old had to wait until 1999 to register her first World Cup win, some 12 years after turning professional.

Two serious knee ligament injuries had previously put her career in doubt as Cavagnoud recalled at the winner's press conference.

"This was a really major success for me," she beamed, "especially after suffering so many injuries and having to start again from scratch each time.

"You do ask yourself whether it's worth coming back from all that, but I had the courage and a great love of skiing. I think those are the two main reasons why I'm the world champion today."

While the Cavagnoud's success had been widely anticipated, a series of upsets for the Austrian skiing team saw the host nation fail to make the podium on day one. Italy's Isolde Kostner came within five hundredths of a second of Cavagnoud to take the silver, while Germany's Hilde Gerg won an unexpected bronze.

There was disappointment for Switzerland's other super-G competitor, Sylviane Berthod. The 23-year-old had set her sights on a top ten finish, but ended up in 18th place, 1.32 seconds behind Cavagnoud.

by Mark Ledsom


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