Swiss snowboarder poised for medal
Swiss snowboarder Gilles Jaquet has raised hopes of another medal after placing first in the qualification race of the men's parallel giant slalom event.
Jaquet's commanding performance saw him beat Austrian Alexander Maier - the brother of injured downhill superstar Herman Maier - with a time of 35.69 seconds.
Another Swiss, Philipp Schoch has also booked himself a place in Friday's final at the Park City course with 15th place in a time of 37.34 seconds.
The success was overshadowed however by the failure of two other Swiss to qualify - two times world champion and Nagano Olympic medallist Ueli Kestenholz and compatriot Simon Schoch.
Kestenholz failed to cross the finish line after faltering halfway down the winding course, while Schoch - the brother of Philipp came 25th out of the 32-strong field.
All or nothing
Swiss snowboard team boss Patric Berg told swissinfo that Jaquet's performance was incredible.
"That was one of his strongest performances he ever did. It was really great," said Berg.
Berg said the chancy nature of the qualifying round had forced Jaquet to pull out all stops.
"You have a 50-percent chance to come through (the qualifying round). That's part of the game, you have to go full risk or to fall out like some other Swiss riders did," he said.
Jaquet's performance confirms his top-notch physical and metal form, and proves the Chaux-de-Fonnier resident's recent World Cup wins in Laax and Leysin were not flukes.
The current FIS World Champion, Jaquet is noted for his powerhouse performances, which have seen him dubbed on the snowboarder circuit as "The Machine"
His lead over Maier was 59 hundredth of a second.
Speaking after the run, Jaquet said he was extremely happy with his technical and physical preparation.
"I love this piste and I feel I can improve because I'm not yet at my limit," Jaquet said.
Jaquet's road to Olympic gold will not be easy however.
The gold, silver and bronze medals in the parallel giant slalom are decided through a series of sudden-death match-ups, with two snowboarders racing against each other simultaneously.
On Friday he faces a duel with 16th-placed qualifier, Frenchman Nicolas Huet, while fellow-Swiss Schoch will race against Maier.
Schoch said on Thursday he felt confident tackling Maier, who is carrying the weight of media expectation on his shoulders.
"I think the pressure [on Maier] will favour me. For me, it's a race I can only win rather than loose," the Zurich Overland resident said.
Schoch also admitted to swearing on the piste during his run, after making "a series of unbelievable mistakes at the beginning", half-expecting not to qualify.
A disappointed Kestenholz said after his run that the snow had been too hard. The Bernese Overlander also pinned his failure on the sport's governing body.
"This organisation just shouldn't be running races at this level," he said.
Only one out of four Swiss starters in the women's parallel giant slalom qualified for the medal chase.
Steffi von Siebenthal, from Saanenmoser, managed to qualify in 12th place with a time of 42.68 seconds, 1.24 seconds behind Austrian Maria Kirchgasser, who came first.
The three Swiss women who failed to progress the qualifying round were Nadia Livers (19th), Daniela Meuli (20th) and Milena Meisser, who did not finish.
Jacob Greber with agencies
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