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Defago wins downhill gold medal for Switzerland

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-16

Switzerland's Didier Defago, won the men's downhill race on Monday,a first for his country in 22 years. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal took silver ahead of Bode Miller of the USA in third.

AFP - Didier Defago, who won the men's Olympic downhill gold medal on Monday, proved himself the golden oldie king in winning Monday's Olympic downhill at Whistler.

For 22 years, Swiss fans had waited for one of their own to claim the mantle of 1988 champion Pirmin Zurbriggen.

Even the most optimistic of them could scarcely have hoped that a 32-year-old, whose previous Games showings saw him miss the top 20, would be the man to pinch the crown and become the oldest to take the blue riband event.

But after poor weather forced racers to wait an extra two days it was the man from Morgins who seized the moment.

"It's not easy when you set the bar really high at a big event only not to achieve your goal, so I am just overjoyed," said Defago, who edged out Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal by 0.07sec and American star Bode Miller by 0.09sec.

"I did a good race - this is just wonderful," said the champion, who is a year older than Jean-Luc Cretier, the Frenchman who clinched gold at Nagano in 1998 at the age of 31 after red-hot favourite Hermann Maier crashed out.

Italian Zeno Colo was also 31 when he won in 1952.

"It was a crazy run, not very easy because it was very different from the training," said Defago.

"I really wanted to go back home with a medal. After three Olympics and a lot of championships I think my experience made the difference," said Defago, whose previous Olympic best in any discipline had been sixth in the 2002 Super G at Salt Lake City.

He has a modest record of three world Cup victories - two came last season in downhills at 2009 Wengen and Kitzbuehel while Defago also won a super-G at Val Gardena back in 2003.

Most Swiss money would surely have been on hot favourite Didier Cuche, the reigning world downhill silver medallist, but he could only manage sixth.

"He deserved it - it's good for the Swiss nation. Now I'm going to enjoy the night with Didier," said Cuche, who lamented a poor final section.

The form book put Defago behind not just Cuche but also teammates Carlo Janka and Ambrosi Hoffmann.

Defago's parents were passionate about skiing and he showed promise early with three podiums at the 1996 Junior World Championships, winning the Super-G.

On that occasion he took fourth place in the downhill but much of that promise evaporated after a 1996 World Cup debut as he continually failed to hit the heights.

On Monday, the qualified architect chose the ultimate stage to craft a success which set the record straight.

Date created : 2010-02-16


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