Swiss win World Ski Championships
Switzerland beats the Austrian, US and French teams in alpine skiing.VAL D'ISERE - Switzerland blended exuberant youth and wise old heads to master the World Ski Championships here as the men's teams of arch rivals Austria and the United States badly misfired.
The Swiss won six medals - two gold, three silver and one bronze, to top the table ahead of neighbouring Austria, whose team members claimed a gold and bronze apiece as well as one silver.
The United States finished third due to Lindsey Vonn's sweep of the women's speed events, while Germany’s women's team earned two golds, Maria Riesch and Kathrin Hoelzl winning the slalom and giant slalom.
The Swiss were given an early start in the two-week championships when veteran Didier Cuche snapped up Super-G gold.
The 34-year-old went on to earn a downhill silver behind Canada's John Kucera, a surprise winner of the men's blue riband event who took advantage of perfect early conditions that later starters did not share.
The result was indicative of a season where there were five different winners in the six World Cup downhills so far.
Young enough to be Cuche's daughter, compatriot Lara Gut confirmed her arrival as a potent force.
The 17-year-old, who is fluent in five languages and studies on the internet, claimed silver medals in the women's downhill and super combined.
Teammate Carlo Janka, 22, won gold in the men's giant slalom and bronze in the downhill.
For Austria's so-called "wunderteam", the championships were underwhelming.
Manfred Pranger claimed gold in the men's slalom and veteran Benjamin Raich won a silver in the giant slalom to save the embarassment of a strong team.
Austria also saw Kathrin Zettel win gold in the super combined, with Elisabeth Goergl taking bronze, as Andrea Fischbacher did in the Super-G.
Defending men's World Cup champion Bode Miller had a disastrous two weeks.
The American finished 12th in the Super-G and a disappointing eighth in the fog-disrupted downhill, but then failed to complete the giant slalom, slalom or super combined, in which teammate Ted Ligety won a bronze.
Their compatriot Vonn, current leader in the women's World Cup overall standings, won in the downhill and Super-G.
But Vonn cut a thumb tendon on the top of a champagne bottle at a sponsor's party celebrating her downhill success.
Swiss Carlo Janka clears a gate in the Slalom, second run of the Super combined race during the men's FIS ski worldcup in Sestriere on February 22, 2009.
It meant a trip by private jet to Austria for surgery, missing the giant slalom and super combined, and returning in pain with splints and wads of padding for the slalom event.
She eventually crashed on the second leg after setting the second-fastest run on the first leg.
For host nation France, there was disappointment at not securing an individual title.
Marie Marchand-Arvier won Super-G silver, and Julien Lizeroux upstaged teammate Jean-Baptiste Grange to claim two silver medals in the super combined and slalom.
One welcome sight was the return of Norwegian giant Aksel Lund Svindal from a crash to instant championships form, earning super combined gold and Super-G bronze.
Val d'Isere proved a worthy host of the championships and the main visual treat for large, enthusiastic crowds was the use of the dangerous Bellevarde piste, icy and steep, for most of the events.
Text: Luke Phillips / AFP / Expatica 2009
Head photo credit: Swiss supporters cheer during the medal ceremony of the men's giant slalom on February 13, 2009 in Val'Isère. AFP PHOTO / Jacques Demarthon