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Swiss hopes are high for Alpine ski season

Destined for glory? Carlo Janka, Didier Cuche, Lara Gut and Silvan Zurbriggen Keystone

All eyes will be on the three great hopes for Swiss glory in Alpine skiing this winter - Didier Cuche, Carlo Janka and Silvan Zurbriggen.

This content was published on October 18, 2011 - 08:04
Samuel Jaberg in Zurich, swissinfo.ch

Ahead of the start of the season this weekend with the traditional giant slalom races on Austria’s Sölden glacier, the Swiss Ski Federation outlined its objectives for the season to journalists at a press conference in Zurich.

New head coach of the men’s team, Osi Inglin, who succeeded Martin Rufener at the end of the 2010/2011 season, said continuity and developing young talent would remain his priority.

“My aim is not to turn everything upside down, but to consolidate the different training groups. I want to encourage young talent such as Justin Murisier, Reto Schmidiger and Manuel Pleisch, who are, I’m sure, capable of accomplishing great things in the future,” Inglin told reporters.

That said, Murisier who hails from canton Valais and is seen as one of Switzerland’s great hopes for the future, will sit this season out having a torn cruciate ligament in his knee while playing football.

Défago returns

With the exception of Murisier, Inglin can count on an almost full team for the season, including the return of downhill Olympic champion Didier Défago from a knee injury which kept him off the slopes for a last year.

But Inglin cautioned patience in relation to Défago’s return to previous form.

“We must be a little bit patient with him, it is never easy to get back into the rhythm after such a long break,” said Inglin.

Almost miraculously after his shocking accident at Kitzbühel in February 2009, Daniel Albrecht is hoping to again mix it with the best. Inglin said he was “impressed” by Albrecht’s determination, despite still having a lot of work ahead of him.

“He is sure that he is going to come back one day to the highest level,” Inglin said, adding that Albrecht will receive no special treatment this season. “He wants to be considered like all the other athletes and will participate in the selection process before the competitions.”

Meanwhile heart problems experienced by Carlo Janka last season seem to be a distant memory. Janka will try to repeat his 2010 victory this season by again winning the overall World Cup. His main rival will be Croation Ivica Kostelic who cruised to World Cup victory in 2011.

Leg-up for Sotchi

Other favourites include Inglin protégées Didier Cuche and Silvan Zurbriggen. Spearhead of the men’s team, Cuche announced in March that he would delay retirement for another season, hoping to add the title of best skier of the season in all disciplines to his long list of accomplishments.

“To do that, he will have to win the most points in the super-combined and participate in the City Events of Munich and Moscow,” said Inglin.

As for Zurbriggen, who made a thunderous start to the 2010/11 season before inexplicably  losing form, Inglin expects he will be serious contender for the overall World Cup.

“He has worked very hard this summer to be ready physically. He has made progress in the giant slalom which until now has been his weak discipline,” said Inglin.

Inglin recognises that starting “with such winners” is an enviable position, which allows the younger generation of skiers to benefit from the experience of their teammates while having less pressure placed on their development.

“This is a very important season as it will serve as a springboard for the World Championships in Schladming in 2013 and the Olympic Games in Sotchi in 2014. We want to bring the most out of our young skiers so that they can experience the atmosphere at the highest level,” said Inglin.

Lara in good form

Promoting the next generation of skiers lies at the heart of the Swiss Ski Federation’s ambitions of avoiding a repeat of the depression experienced in the early 2000s.

“The 11 medals won in February at the junior world championships in Crans-Montana were very satisfying. But the results should not be overestimated, the path to success is long for these competitors,” said Dierk Beisel, head of competition.

Mauro Pini, coach of the Swiss women’s team, was in agreement.

“It’s about making progress in the medium term and developing a competitive team to take to the Olympic Games in Sotchi,” Pini said. “But we also want to get results this winter. In downhill, the objective is ten medals. In slalom and giant slalom, we’re targeting the top 15.”

Lara Gut, who again trained separately from the national team during the summer, leads the hopes for the women’s team.

Pini was not interested in revisiting the source of tensions which led to the suspension of the young Ticino native from competing in two races in December 2010 after she criticised him in public.

“I hope that Lara and the Swiss Ski Federation find an arrangement and that things carry on peacefully,” Pini told reporters.

“I think Lara is in form, and when she is in form, she is capable of doing incredible things.”

Season 2011/2012

Start: Racing at Austria’s Sölden glacier signals the start of the World Cup Alpine ski season. The women’s giant slalom will take place on October 22, followed by the men’s giant slalom on October 23.

Switzerland: The men’s World Cup will come to the Bernese Alps in January, with the traditional races at Adelboden and Wengen. New this season, the Valais station Crans-Montana will hold men’s super-G and giant slalom competitions at the end of February. In January, St Moritz will welcome the women’s downhill and super-combined.

Olympic Games: No major events – World Championship or Olympic Games – are scheduled for this winter. The World Cup will end at Sotchi, Russia, the venue for the next Olympics in winter 2014. It will be an occasion for skiers to familiarise themselves with pistes that have a number of impressive jumps and an unusual climate being situated at sea level.

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