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Von Grünigen clinches national title

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Von Grünigen storms past a gate on the way to his second national title


Michael von Grünigen was the unsurprising winner of Saturday's giant slalom race at the Swiss skiing championships in Melchsee-Frutt.

Already the reigning world champion, following his success earlier this season in the giant slalom event at St Anton, Von Grünigen finished Saturday's race in a combined time of 1:54.45.

Last year's winner, Marco Büchel of Liechtenstein, ended the race in second place, more than three-quarters of a second behind Von Grünigen. Slalom specialist Thomas Geisser was the only unexpected figure on the podium, after finishing in third place.

Von Grünigen was back on his skis for the first time since the disappointment of the final World Cup race in Are, where the Swiss skier was pipped to the overall giant slalom title by Austria's Hermann Maier. Nevertheless the Bernese Oberlander said he had been fully motivated for Saturday's event.

"I don't have too many titles yet," he pointed out after picking up his gold medal. Von Grünigen has only won one previous Swiss title, in the 1996 slalom.

As Von Grünigen set his sights on future glories, one of the sport's veteran athletes was bowing out.

Triple world championship and Olympic medal winner Urs Kälin was forced to complete his last ever competition with a gentle run down the slope after picking up a back injury last week.

"Anyone who knows me will know that I would have rather said goodbye to the spectators with a proper race," the 35-year-old skier said afterwards.

swissinfo with agencies


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