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Swiss women make slow start to ski season

Switzerland's Nef had to settle for 15th place in Sölden

(Keystone)

The Alpine World Cup season began on Saturday with a surprise win for Germany's Martina Ertl in the giant slalom race in Sölden. Corinne Rey-Bellet was the best placed Swiss in 12th, with Swiss number one Sonja Nef a further three places behind.

After recording the seventh quickest time in the morning's first run, Nef lost ground in the second run following a mistake on the upper part of the course. The nervous start found Nef in good company, however, with many of the discipline's pre-season favourites failing to make an impact.

The reigning overall World Cup champion, Renate Goetschl, crashed out in the middle section of the first leg, while Austria's Anita Wachter wiped out in the second leg. Defending giant slalom champion Michaela Dorfmeister only just managed to sneak into the points after finishing in joint seventh.

As the big names floundered, Ertl took devastating advantage, the German veteran pulling off an awesome performance in her second run to leap from 16th to first. Norway's Andrine Flemmen took second place with Sweden's Anja Paerson finishing third.

On Sunday the Sölden course will host the start of the men's skiing season, with Hermann Maier once again seen as the man to beat. The Austrian double Olympic, double world and double World Cup champion is expected to face a strong challenge in the giant slalom though, with Michael von Grünigen keen to improve on his performance last year.

Third in the world rankings, von Grünigen specialises in the giant slalom and is looking for his fourth World Cup title in the event, following wins in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

swissinfo with agencies

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