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Snowfall puts off women's downhill

THE women's downhill race at the world championships was postponed yesterday and will be rescheduled for a later date due to excessive snowfall on the Rhone-Alpes course at the French resort of Val d'Isere.

Officials initially delayed the start for an hour, then two hours, but ultimately decided they couldn't get the race off. Forecasts called for 10 centimeters of snow, but 25 centimeters fell in some spots on the course, making the turns too dangerous.

Organizers were considering rescheduling the race for today in between the downhill and slalom runs of the men's super-combi.

The final downhill training session was also called off.

Swiss teenager Lara Gut and super-G winner Lindsey Vonn of the US led the first two training sessions.

Meanwhile, not since the days of Pirmin Zurbriggen and Vreni Schneider have the Swiss had it so good.

Four medals from four events so far at the championships have given the Swiss cause to believe they can replace arch-rival Austria as the leading Alpine skiing nation.

Seven world titles

The results hark back to the 1980s and early 1990s when Zurbriggen and Schneider ruled the slopes for Switzerland, winning seven world titles between them.

Schneider, who won 55 World Cup races, added three Olympic gold medals while Zurbriggen was Olympic downhill champion in 1988 and chalked up 40 Cup wins.

A new generation of racers has spurred the Swiss team to success this season, though they have had bad luck, too. Daniel Albrecht, the most gifted and versatile skier on the team, remains in hospital after an horrific crash in downhill training in Kitzbuehel last month. Doctors said on Friday that they were planning to wake him from an induced coma over the coming days.

The Swiss have blended a team of experienced skiers such as Didier Cuche, 34, and youngsters such as Carlo Janka, 22, and Gut, 17.

Cuche won gold in the super-G and silver in the downhill here, while Janka and Gut, both first-time winners on the World Cup circuit this season, took bronze and silver in the downhill and super-combined, respectively.

The Austrians have faltered in recent months and they failed to earn a medal in the men's speed events here.


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