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Swiss make low-key start to Kitzbühel weekend

Austria's Hermann Maier celebrated his 35th World Cup win on Friday

(Keystone)

Alpine skiing's traditional showcase weekend in the Austrian resort of Kitzbühel has seen an unspectacular start by the Swiss delegation.

Neuchâtel's Didier Cuche was the only member of the Swiss team to finish Friday's demanding super-G course in the top ten, after recording the seventh fastest time of the day.

Steve Locher was fortunately able to pick himself up from a dramatic looking crash, while Didier Defago and Bruno Kernen both wandered off course.

Silvano Beltrametti and Markus Herrmann were at least able to complete the race, finishing in 12th and 19th place respectively.

The event was won by Austria's Hermann Maier who sped to the 35th World Cup victory of his career and further stretched his lead at the top of the overall super-G rankings.

The Herminator is expected to find things a little tougher on Saturday, though, as attention in Kitzbühel turns to the legendary downhill event. The Streif piste is commonly known as the "downhill of downhills", run on a brutal course which even Maier has so far been unable to tame.

The double Olympic, double world and double overall World Cup champion recorded his best ever downhill placing in Kitzbühel last season when he finished fourth.

Of the Swiss skiers in Kitzbühel, Cuche can at least point to one previous victory on the Streif, having won a sprint downhill on the course in 1998. However Cuche will have to improve strongly on Friday's super-G showing if he is to repeat the heroics of three years ago.

Switzerland's women skiers were also well out of contention for podium places at the end of Friday's downhill race in Cortina. Sylviane Berthod was the best-placed Swiss skier, finishing in tenth place, while Corinne Rey-Bellet took twelfth spot.

The race was won by home favourite Isolde Kostner, strengthening the Italian's grip on the overall downhill rankings. Kostner finished just two hundredths of a second ahead of Austria's Renate Götschl, who is also her nearest rival in the race for the overall downhill title.

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