Italy bade a fond farewell to the 20th Winter Olympic Games during a carnival-like ceremony on Sunday, passing the baton to the Canadian city of Vancouver.This content was published on February 26, 2006 - 21:35
Led by the Olympic women's skeleton champion Maya Pedersen, the 130 Swiss athletes left the Games with an outstanding haul of 14 medals, including five gold.
Five champions could have carried the Swiss flag at the closing ceremony but it was the first gold medal winner for Switzerland, Pedersen, who led the delegation at the Olympic Stadium.
"It was a big honour for me to carry the flag. It's something that happens only once in a lifetime," she said.
The entry of the Olympic athletes was one of the emotional moments of the closing ceremony which was attended by the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and numerous VIPs.
Another high point was the handing over of responsibility for the next Winter Games in 2010 to the host city of Vancouver in Canada.
Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, seriously disabled after a skiing accident, managed to wave the Olympic flag using a novel system installed on his wheelchair.
In four years' time the Swiss athletes who go to Canada will have a hard task in surpassing the outstanding performances achieved this year in Piedmont.
On the different competition sites in Turin, Sestriere, Bardonecchia, Cesena, Pragelato, Pinerolo and Suze d'Oulx, the 130 selected Swiss athletes succeeded in harvesting a total of 14 medals and 24 Olympic diplomas.
The achievement was almost on a par with the 15 medals the Swiss took home after the 1988 Winter Olympics in the Canadian city of Calgary.
They did not manage so well in Albertville (three medals), Lillehammer (nine), Nagano (seven), Sapporo (ten) and Salt Lake City (11).
"The result is very positive. It's an enormous satisfaction because more than 70 per cent of our athletes obtained a medal or a diploma," Werner Augsburger, head of the Swiss delegation, told swissinfo.
"It gives me a certain good feeling if you think about the selection criteria, which were criticised in January."
Before the Games, Augsburger had set his sights on a target of eight medals.
"We had fixed a realistic objective even if we were aware that the potential of the athletes was above that. We didn't think it was possible to win 14 medals but we are not complaining."
He commented that the first medal was extremely important for the delegation. The fact that it came early on with Bruno Kernen's bronze in the downhill skiing event permitted everyone to relax.
The Swiss shone this year in the skiing, snowboard, curling, bob, skeleton, acrobatic skiing and ice-skating competitions.
In skiing, the heroes of Turin were Ambrosi Hoffmann (bronze in the super G), Bruno Kernen (bronze downhill) and Martina Schild (silver downhill).
In the ice tunnel, they were Maya Pedersen (gold skeleton), Gregor Stähli (bronze skeleton) and Martin Annen (bronze medals in the two- and four-man bob).
The men's world ice-skating champion, Stéphane Lambiel, took Olympic silver in his discipline, while Evelyne Leu brought home gold in the freestyle skiing event.
In curling, the team of Mirjam Ott had to settle for silver after a nail-biting final with favourites Sweden.
The medal tally was completed with the gold and silver medals of Philipp and Simon Schoch (parallel giant slalom snowboard), Daniela Meuli (gold parallel giant slalom snowboard) and Tanja Frieden (gold boardercross).
Some of the medal winners of Turin will have ended their careers by the time of the Vancouver Games of 2010. The sporting bodies of Switzerland have therefore four years to find new champions.
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux
The 20th Winter Olympic Games took place in Turin and in the Italian region of Piedmont from February 10-26.
During the Games, the Swiss won 14 medals (five gold, four silver and five bronze) and 24 diplomas. The Swiss only did better in 1988 when they took 15 medals (Calgary).
Switzerland came eighth in the rankings of countries competing in Turin.
Skeleton champion Maya Pedersen, who won Switzerland's first gold medal of the Games, carried the Swiss flag during the closing ceremony.
Snowboarder Philipp Schoch carried the Swiss flag during the opening ceremony.
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