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Alpine skiing: Kueng upsets Wengen field to claim maiden downhill

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Swiss upstart Patrick Kueng dominated a shortened Wengen downhill on Saturday to claim his first ever World Cup win in the sport's blue-riband event.

Austrian Hannes Reichelt finished second at 0.06sec for his fourth podium of the season, with Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the World Cup downhill and overall leader, completing the podium after finishing 0.07 off Kueng's winning time of 1min 32.66sec.

"It has become reality!" said Kueng, who has trodden a long road to becoming a regular in the Swiss team, overcoming serious leg injuries in 2006 and battling through the second-tier Europa Cup circuit.

"I was very nervous before the start, and probably even more nervous waiting for the skiers to finish. It was so close today, only six and seven hundredths of a second. Luck was on my side today."

Kueng added: "I've had great training since I resumed in October. After going to North America, I knew I was quite fast within the team, and when we started training with other teams that was further confirmed.

"After my win in the Beaver Creek super-G in December, I felt I should be the team leader. I'm okay with the pressure, I'm 30 and know how to take it."

Kueng said thoughts of making an Olympic debut in Sochi were overshadowed by winning on home snow.

"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.

"Sochi is a big event, but a Swiss winning in Wengen is also a big deal for us."

The legendary Wengen downhill, at more than 4.4 kilometres long, is the longest on the circuit but a significant slice of race-day drama was removed when strong winds near the top of the course forced a rethink.

Organisers shortened the course to 2.68km in length and dropped the start from 2,315 metres in altitude to 1,900m -- although that did not stop much of the field hitting in excess of 150 km/h on the fastest section of the Lauberhorn.

Perhaps because of those changes, a number of big names failed to shine on a bumpy course which, in the past, has often rewarded the sport's all-rounders.

Swiss veteran Didier Defago narrowly avoided crashing into the safety netting while former two-time Wengen winner Bode Miller of the United States missed a potential podium place after a huge mistake near the bottom.

Austrian Max Franz then took the provisional lead in a time of 1:32.90, but two racers later his celebrations ended when Kueng completed the course 0.24secs quicker.

Franz eventually finished just off the podium in fourth, with Miller fifth at 0.35.

Canada's Erik Guay, a former world champion, did not finish while Italian duo Peter Fill and Werner Heel, who had both shone in training on the longer course on Wednesday, finished seventh and 15th respectively.

For the 30-year-old Kueng, the victory marked a continuation of some good form this season after he won his first World Cup race, a super-G, in Beaver Creek in early December.

Despite only making his World Cup debut in 2009 and never having broken into the ultra-competitive Swiss ski team for the Olympics, Kueng did compete in last year's world championships and his showing here did not come out of the blue for teammate Defago.

"It might come as a surprise to the wider public, but not to us on the Swiss ski team. He's been training well," the veteran said.

Svindal's third place saw the affable Norwegian further extend his lead atop the overall World Cup standings to 757 points, with Austrian Marcel Hirscher in second (675) and American Ted Ligety in third (433), the latter two not having taken part in the downhill.

Svindal also remains in top position in the downhill standings on 360pts from Reichelt (260) and Kueng (221).

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140118/alpine-skiing-kueng-upsets-wengen-field-claim-maiden-downhill-0