Albrecht combines talents to take gold
Switzerland's Daniel Albrecht has seen off defending champion Benjamin Raich of Austria to win the combined gold at the World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden.
Swiss joy in the downhill part of the men's combined race was compounded when Marc Berthod won bronze and Didier Défago came fourth. Switzerland is now leading the medal table.
Albrecht was seventh after the downhill leg and laid down a perfect slalom run for a combined time of 2 minutes, 28.99 seconds.
It was the first Swiss victory at the world championships since Michael von Gruenigen and Sonja Nef won the giant slaloms at St. Anton, Austria, six years ago, and the first gold for a Swiss in a combination race since Pirmin Zurbriggen achieved the feat 22 years ago.
Benjamin Raich was second, 0.08 seconds behind, and Marc Berthod took third, 0.24 back.
Didier Defago finished fourth to give Switzerland three of the first four places.
Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal was fifth and Bode Miller, who led the downhill portion, finished sixth, 0.98 seconds off the pace. Thirty skiers were in the competition.
The 23-year-old Albrecht had never finished on the podium on the World Cup circuit. His best results were two fourth-place finishes: in the slalom in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in December and the combined in Wengen, Switzerland, two years ago.
At the last world championships in Bormio, Italy, no Swiss man or woman won a medal. The Swiss now have three medals after three races. Bruno Kernen won bronze in the super-G.
"I can't believe it. It's going to take some time to believe it," Albrecht said. "I never thought I could catch Miller and Svindal. I had a very good downhill. I was surprised how close I was to the top downhillers. I've been training a lot with Berthod and now we're both on the podium. It's great."
Albrecht was the 2003 world junior champion in combined, though, and finished fourth in the discipline at the Turin Olympics last year. At the last worlds, he finished seventh in combined.
The combined was run in the super-combi format for the first time at a major championship. It consisted of a downhill leg and a single slalom run, as opposed to a downhill leg and two slalom runs under the old format.
Miller had more than a second lead on Albrecht before his slalom run. The American lost more than half of the lead at the split point and couldn't ski anywhere near as fast as Albrecht on the bottom portion.
Albrecht watched enviously last month when his teammate and roommate Marc Berthod became the first Swiss man to win a World Cup race in three seasons.
"I've been skiing in Marc's shadow this season, but that has inspired me," Albrecht said on Thursday.
"I told him that it's great to see him do so well but I'm going to fight back at the world championships. I've really been fighting hard. I had a good feeling after the downhill. I was close to the leaders and I was starting to think about a medal, which made me nervous but I had a really good slalom run," Albrecht said.
"We've been skiing together and sharing a room since we were 14," Albrecht said of Berthod. "Marc's a good guy, but I'm happy to beat him today."
Albrecht and Berthod are both 23 and all-around skiers, athletes capable of competing in all four disciplines.
While Albrecht's win was a surprise to many, Swiss men's team coach Martin Rufener said he saw it coming. "[Albrecht] has been in the shadow always of Berthod, but he has the ability," Rufener said.
"He was ready to jump in there too, and he was ready to do it today, which was perfect."
swissinfo with agencies
The 2007 Alpine World Ski Championships are being held in Åre, Sweden until February 18.
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.
Selected results for men's super-combi:
1. Daniel Albrecht (Switzerland) 2:28,99 min. (Downhill 1:37,66 min./Slalom 51,33 secs)
2. Benjamin Raich (Austria) 2:29,07 (1:38,24/50,83)
3. Marc Berthod (Switzerland) 2:29,23 (1:37,94/51,29)
4. Didier Défago (Switzerland) 2:29,50 (1:37,64/51,86)
5. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway) 2:29,59 (1:36,84/52,75)
6. Bode Miller (United States) 2:29,97 (1:36,64/53,33)
7. Romed Baumann (Austria) 2:29,98 (1:38,21/51,77)
8. Silvan Zurbriggen (Switzerland) 2:30,01 (1:38,27/51,74)
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