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Swiss skiers dream of podium finishes in Are

Marc Berthod is one of Switzerland's greatest hopes for a medal in Are Keystone

Since hitting rock bottom at the 2005 Alpine World Ski Championships in Bormio, Italy, Switzerland's alpine skiers are poised to make a comeback in Sweden.

This content was published on February 4, 2007 - 13:08

After an excellent start to the season, hopes are up that the women's and men's teams can win a medal or two at the 2007 world championships, in Are, northeast Sweden.

However, Saturday's opening race was postponed due to high winds. The men's super-G will now take place on Monday.

The women's race, scheduled for Sunday, will now also take place on Tuesday, said the organisers on Sunday.

Two years ago, the Swiss teams returned home empty-handed from Italy without winning a single medal. This also happened previously at the championships in Portillo, Chilli in 1966 and in Chamonix in 1962, as well as at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games.

Despite a slight improvement in 2006, when the teams won three medals at the Turin Winter Olympics, Swiss skiing has since been completely restructured.

And since the beginning of the season, the Swiss seem to have rediscovered their form, with a series of victories described by the trainers as "unexpected".

At the mid-season stage, the men's team has already stood nine times on the winners' podium – seven times more than the entire previous season. Among the women skiers, Dominique Gisin and Martina Schild are the only two to have finished among the top three in a World Cup race so far, but the Swiss women continue to generally do well.

So now exactly 20 years after the Swiss "dream team" – which included Pirmin Zurbriggen, Maria Walliser, Erika Hess and Michaela Figini – swept the board in Crans-Montana in 1987, they have the chance to rectify the Bormio disaster.

Possible winners

Didier Cuche and Marc Berthod, who currently lead the downhill and super-combis standings respectively, are well placed in Are.

Medal winners at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, Ambrosi Hoffman and Bruno Kernen, are also both in with a chance, as are Didier Défago, Silvan Zurbriggen and Marc Gini.

"Any of the Swiss athletes taking part could finish on the winners' podium, but we have to remain realistic," warns Martin Rufener, trainer of the men's alpine team.

Rufener has fixed a minimum objective of one medal in Are: "But if it happens early on, it is bound to encourage others. One thing is for certain, our excellent start to the season has given us lots of energy and confidence."

Hopes of a medal among the Swiss women skiers are resting on the shoulders of Martina Schild and Dominique Gisin.

But since taking silver medal in the Turin downhill, Schild has lacked confidence and will only take part in the super-G, an event she excels at. She came third in a World Cup Super-G in December.

Gisin, one of the revelations of this season after her second place in the Altenmarkt-Zauchensee downhill, will be competing in the downhill as well as the super-combined events.

"We are confident, even if we know that it will be difficult to win a medal. We are going to do our utmost, particularly in the speed events, to get on one of the world championships podiums," said Hugues Ansermoz, trainer of the women's team.

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux

In brief

The 2007 Alpine World Ski Championships will be held in Are, Sweden from February 2-18, 2007. Are is situated in Jämtland, 98 km from the city of Ostersund.

The Championships will be the largest winter sport event ever in Sweden, with 350 competitors from 60 nations expected to take part.
The Swiss delegation comprises 18 athletes – 10 women and 8 men.

Women's team: Dominique Gisin, Fränzi Aufdenblatten, Sylviane Berthod, Nadia Styger, Martina Schild, Fabienne Suter, Rabea Grand, Sandra Gini, Tamara Wolf and Catherine Borghi.

Men's team: Daniel Albrecht, Marc Berthod, Didier Défago, Marc Gini, Ambrosi Hoffmann, Bruno Kernen, Silvan Zurbriggen and Didier Cuche.

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