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February 9, 2006



TURIN, Italy (AP by Jean-Luc Courthial)—France won two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing four years ago. At the Turin Games this year, the team is not expecting to repeat that feat. The Alpine events at the Winter Olympics have traditionally been France's strength, but the team's form has dipped recently.

Slalom skiers Jean-Pierre Vidal and Stephane Tissot are the only ones with big successes this season _ Vidal winning in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January and Tissot taking second in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in December.

Carole Montillet, the 2002 Olympic women's downhill champion, and Ingrid Jacquemod and Antoine Deneriaz, however, have not reached a podium this season.

"I want to believe in (French skiing), said Franck Piccard, the 1988 Olympic super-G champion and 1992 downhill silver medalist. "The experience is different for each racer, but for me the Olympics always made me better. I had dreamed of them since I was a child.

Some critics have blamed France's woes on increased specialization in the disciplines, while others see the lack of competition for places as a factor.

Piccard, however, believes this could benefit the French.

"The Austrians are involved in selection until the final day, he said. "They are under pressure, know that without a World Cup podium finish they won't go to the games. By the time they get to the games they can have lost their edge.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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