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Cuche Wins Swiss Giant Slalom

Adelboden, Switzerland Jan. 5, 2002 (AP)--Didier Cuche of Switzerland won a men's giant slalom Saturday for his first World Cup victory in nearly four years.

Cuche, among the top 10 in more than 30 races over the past three seasons without ever winning, delivered two aggressive runs for a winning combined time of 2 minutes, 23.99 seconds.

He finished a whopping 1.15 seconds ahead of Frederic Covili of France to collect his first career win in the giant slalom.

``I can't believe it, it's been such a long, long wait,'' Cuche said. ``I knew it would happen again, but I have to admit I was wondering when.''

The 27-year-old skier's only other World Cup victory came in a downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in 1998.

Known as a speed specialist, Cuche suddenly has had success in the giant slalom this season. Before Saturday, he already had third-, fourth- and sixth-place finishes.

``I knew I could be fast in the giant slalom and maybe win a race one day but I never thought it would be this year,'' Cuche said after establishing himself as a medal contender for the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Olympics. ``I had some good physical training this summer. It went so well it gave me a lot of confidence for this season.''

Covili, seeking to become the first Frenchman to win at this Swiss resort in 31 years, had to settle for keeping the discipline leader's red bib.

Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden was third in 2:25.25.

Cuche nearly crashed four gates into the final leg, catching his inside ski before making a brilliant recovery and regaining his composure.

At the finish, Cuche dropped to the ground for several moments. He rose to his feet with tears in his eyes as teammates and rivals rushed to congratulate him.

``I actually thought I was going too slow in the first run because I wasn't having any problems,'' Cuche said. ``So when I saw my time in the finish area I couldn't believe it.''

World Cup overall leader Stephan Eberharter of Austria was eighth Saturday in 2:26.16. It marked his sixth top-10 result in as many giant slalom races.

Eberharter padded his lead in the overall standings, with 732 points. Cuche climbed to second with 497, overtaking Bode Miller of the United States, now third on 440.

Covili tops the discipline standings with 413 points, with Nyberg in second on 326. Benjamin Raich of Austria is third with 325, and Cuche climbed into fourth with 300.

Dane Spencer was the top U.S. skier Saturday, 10th in 2:26.74, while Miller, the first American since 1983 to win a World Cup slalom and giant slalom, was 13th.

Erik Schlopy, 13th after the opening run, nearly crashed early in the second run, dropping to 27th.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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