Swiss skiers are taking part in the Swiss Ski Championships this weekend at Veysonnaz, which mark the end of a successful comeback season for the Swiss squad.
Led by Didier Cuche, the men's team figured strongly, both in the World Cup and in the Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden; however, the women's team failed to impress.
"This has really been a comeback season for Swiss skiing. It's the first time that we can claim to have beaten all expectations, even the most optimistic," declared Patrice Morisod, Swiss ski team trainer.
This recent renaissance of Swiss skiing has been characterised in particular by the comeback of Didier Cuche.
An accident in 2005 during training in the Swiss resort of Adelboden left the 32-year-old from Neuchâtel with a serious knee injury.
But thanks to hard work and determination, he has managed to bounce back to take part in his twelfth and best World Cup season.
"After such an injury we set Didier less ambitious objectives so that he could race without too much pressure. But it obviously helped him to ski completely freely and to have a fantastic season," joked Morisod.
Cuche won bronze medal in the giant slalom in Åre and also clinched the 2007 downhill World Cup title with victory in the penultimate race of the season.
It was his first major title in more than ten years of racing and the first World Cup title for Switzerland since 2003, when Michael von Grünigen won the giant slalom. Cuche is also the first Swiss to win the downhill title since Franz Heinzer in 1993.
Two young talented skiers have also enabled the Swiss team to proudly grace the winners' podium this season following several difficult years.
Marc Berthod stamped his mark on the World Cup by pulling off a shock slalom victory for Switzerland in Adelboden to become the first Swiss man to win the discipline in the World Cup since 1999.
Berthod secured a miraculous second run in the Bernese Oberland to climb from 27th place to the top of the podium. The comeback bettered the previous record held by Benjamin Raich, who powered to first place from 23rd in Schladming, Austria, seven years ago.
He also finished third in the combined event at the world championships in Åre.
Another sensation this season has been Daniel Albrecht, who powered to gold in the combined event and silver in the giant slalom in Sweden.
Other members of the men's team, including Bruno Kernen, Ambrosi Hoffman, Didier Défago and Silvan Zurbriggen, also shined this season.
Yet these positive results by the men cannot hide the sense of disappointment among the women's team. Under trainer Huges Ansermoz, the women have achieved several good performances but they have only managed to secure two World Cup podium positions this season.
The world championships in Sweden were seen as an opportunity for the team to gain valuable racing experience.
"Indeed, there are more problems among the women, mostly technical ones. In the speed events we lack a true leader. The encouraging thing is to see young skiers coming up through the ranks who are getting good results. With the professional structures being put in place there is hope," said Morisod.
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux
During the 2006-2007 World Cup season, Swiss skiers stood 14 times on the winners' podium, including two first positions, compared with only twice last season. They also finished fourth in ten World Cup races.
The Swiss went home with six medals from the Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden: Daniel Albrecht (gold in the combined event and silver in the giant slalom), Marc Berthod (bronze in the combined), Didier Cuche (bronze in the giant slalom) and Bruno Kernen (bronze in the Super-G), and bronze for the nations' team event.
The women were less fortunate, with only two World Cup podium places – Dominique Gisin and Martina Schild.
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