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Swiss legend Cuche bows out on wooden skis

AFP · 19 Mar 2012, 09:32

Published: 19 Mar 2012 09:32 GMT+01:00

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Swiss veteran Didier Cuche ended his two-decade long career on Saturday in characteristically goofy fashion, racing the giant slalom's second leg in wooden skis and traditional woollen ski clothes.

With a soft cap on his head, leather rucksack on his back and long wooden poles in hand, the 37-year-old Cuche, clad in early 1900s fashion with jacket and trousers -- a far cry from today's high-tech jumpsuits -- skidded uncertainly down the slope in Schladming, Austria, with a smile on his face, to the cheers of fans.

"I prefer to leave with feelings of regret rather than with feelings of relief," he had said ahead of his last race.

As a tribute, many of the competitors that followed him down the slope attempted on arrival a ski flip -- Cuche's trademark -- with more or less success.

"It was a nice gesture, I really appreciated it," Cuche reacted later.

"I didn't know at the start if five minutes would be enough (to go down the slope in his traditional equipment)."
Race winner Marcel Hirscher later took 1min 14.32sec to do the same course.

"It was a great run. I tried to turn at the beginning and I realised I needed to just skid," Cuche laughed.

"I look forward to next season and to seeing it from another perspective," he said of his retirement.

The Swiss accumulated six World Cup trophies -- four in downhill and one each in super-G and giant slalom -- over his career and was super-G World Champion in 2009, as well Olympic silver-medallist in the same discipline in 1998.

His attempt to go out with a bang misfired however this week as he missed out on a last World Cup trophy in downhill and super-G.

"Nevertheless he's the downhill master... he will retire as the downhill master," said Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal.

US overall World Cup winner Lindsey Vonn also had praise.

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"He's one of the best downhillers."

"Everyone's going to miss Didier, he's such a cool character. He's always a fun guy to watch."

Austria's Hannes Reichelt, however, saw the silver lining as Cuche's 25-year-old compatriot Beat Feuz battled for the men's overall World Cup trophy.

"It's sad that Cuche is going. He belongs to this sport. But the next Swiss guy is already here," said Reichelt, after finishing third behind Beat Feuz in downhill on Wednesday.

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