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Alpine skiing: Kueng triumphs, but magic missing in Wengen

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Patrick Kueng set the cowbells a-ringing with a maiden downhill victory on home snow in Wengen on Saturday, but the gloss was missing from a race cut short because of high winds.

Organisers were forced into moving the start down the famed Lauberhorn course, normally the longest on the circuit at 4.4km long, cutting more than a minute off the running time.

Racers had an unusual start on what is the flattest and slowest part of the course and while they did top 150km/h on lower parts of the piste, there was little of the drama associated with the full, leg-burning 4km-plus run.

But take nothing away from Kueng, who delighted the 29,000 fans packed into the arrival area with a near-flawless descent on a bumpy, technical lower section in poor light.

A relative latecomer to the World Cup circuit, having made his debut only in 2009 after overcoming serious leg injuries sustained three years previously, the 30-year-old said he had dreamed of winning on the Lauberhorn.

"Since I was a kid, I've been watching this race. My first dream was to race it and my second dream was to win it," he said after topping Austrian Hannes Reichelt and Norwegian giant Aksel Lund Svindal by 0.06 and 0.07sec respectively.

"Sochi and the Winter Olympics are a big event, but a Swiss winning in Wengen is also a big deal for us."

Kueng has yet to represent the Swiss team at the Olympics, but will now be one of their main medal hopes in Russia next month.

"For Sochi, it's wait-and-see, let's hope everything goes well and my shape remains good for that," he said.

"In 2006 I had a terrible accident in which I broke one leg and broke the ankle in my other leg.

"I ended up in a wheelchair and my thoughts did turn to quitting.

"It was a very tough time, but when I decided to continue, it was nothing but 100 percent.

"I came back and was competing in Europa Cup races and winning but couldn't break into the very strong Swiss team of the time. Eventually I got a World Cup spot and now I'm here."

For second-placed Reichelt, it was a third consecutive podium placing on the Lauberhorn after a third and second in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

"The feeling is good," the Austrian said. "To be on the podium is always really good.

"I feel I got second and didn't lose a victory. Before the race, I knew it was going to be close because the course was half its original length."

Svindal's third spot consolidated his place atop the overall World Cup standings ahead of technical specialist Marcel Hirscher of Austria, and he was dogmatic about the way the luck of one-hundredths of a second fell.

"I'm happy, it was a tight race," the reigning world downhill champion said. "This year, I've had three or four fourth places and a couple of wins.

"If you're there enough times, one-hundredths can go one way or the other. I don't think about margins, I just enjoy the result."

Svindal also defended the decision to drop the start and hailed the work that had enabled the race to go ahead despite gusting winds up top.

"We should be thankful for the work the 600-strong crew put in," he said. "A start at the top would have been ideal. Wengen is the most beautiful downhill course and it's too bad we were unable to show that.

"But it was a good, fair race today and Kueng won.

"It's good for the Swiss to get a win here. You didn't need a radio up top to know Kueng had had a good run!"

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140118/alpine-skiing-kueng-triumphs-magic-missing-wengen