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Swiss fired up for Winter Olympics

Simon Ammann soars to victory in the ski jumping at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games Keystone

The largest ever Swiss delegation at the 20th Olympic Winter Games in Turin will be going to Italy with high hopes of repeating past Olympic successes.

This content was published on February 6, 2006 - 11:07

The Swiss Olympic Association expects the 130 athletes to win eight medals this year. Four years ago the Swiss team brought home 11 medals.

Salt Lake City in Utah was a highpoint for Swiss winter sports, with medals in ski jumping, cross-country skiing, snowboard, curling, bobsleigh and bob skeleton.

Apart from Simon Ammann, double Olympic champion in the ski jump, several Swiss athletes reached new heights to win a total of three golds, two silvers and six bronzes (see related).

This year Swiss Olympic has fixed the target for the games, which take place February 10-26, at eight medals. According to Werner Augsburger, the head of the Swiss delegation to Turin, this is based on the results obtained by Swiss athletes over the past two years.

"In elite sport, in principle you need to have three strong athletes in the same discipline to be sure of winning a medal," Augsburger told swissinfo.

"Furthermore, the conditions are the Olympics are difficult, because the stakes are so high."

Medal chances

At present it seems that the chances of winning a medal are only high in a few disciplines.

Swiss snowboarders have had an extremely strong season, dominating both the men's and women's competitions.

There have also been good results in ski jumping, bobsleigh, curling, skeleton, skiing and figure skating.

In skating all eyes are on the young Swiss prodigy – and world title-holder - Stéphane Lambiel.

After the success of Ammann in the ski jump four years ago, hopes are pinned this time on Andreas Küttel. The athlete, who hails from canton Schwyz in central Switzerland, has had an excellent season.

Philipp Schoch, Olympic champion at Salt Lake City, is heading a strong snowboarding team, with each member tipped as a medal possibility.

Skiing

In alpine skiing, Ambrosi Hoffmann could be in with a chance in the men's competition, as could the young Fränzi Aufdenblatten, in the women's event. Aufdenblatten's form has improved measurably over the past few weeks.

It is hard to predict whether the women's cross-country skiing team – headed by Laurence Rochat will be able to repeat their Salt Lake City bronze in the 4x5km relay this year.

But there could be good performances from Martin Annen, who won a bronze four years ago with Beat Hefti in the bobsleigh, in both the two-man and four-man competitions.

And the curling teams are also in with a chance, with hopes of at least one medal from both the women's and men's teams.

Switzerland is also hoping to repeat its success in the little-known skeleton event (a bobsleigh where the athlete is positioned head first). In Utah, Maya Pedersen-Bieri and Gregor Stähli both gained medals.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux

Key facts

The Swiss delegation to Turin is made up of a record 130 athletes. It's one of the largest ever, as it includes for the first time two ice hockey teams.
The delegation's budget for the games is SFr2 million ($1.6 million).
In Salt Lake City, the delegation comprised 114 athletes.
Four years before that, in Nagano in Japan, it had only 74 members.

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In brief

Swiss Olympic is has fixed a target of eight medals for the Swiss team at the Turin games, which take place from February 10-26.

The team's Olympic song, called We are on fire! was composed by Marc Sway, a Swiss of Brazilian origins. It was presented for the first time at the Swiss sports awards.

The Swiss team won 11 medals (3 golds, 2 silvers and 6 bronzes) at Salt Lake City, Utah, four years ago.

In Calgary in 1998 the medal total was 15. However, other games have proved less fruitful: Nagano in 1998 (7), Lillehammer in 1994 (9), and Albertville in 1992 (3).

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