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Viletta of Switzerland earns 1st World Cup win

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 3 2011 4:45 p.m. MST

Beat Feuz, of Switzerland, races down the course during the men's World Cup Super-G ski competition, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Beaver Creek, Colo. Feuz placed third in th race.

Nathan Bilow, Associated Press

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Sandro Viletta of Switzerland has a fear of flying.

Only, that anxiety doesn't carry over to ski racing.

Viletta soared through a demanding Birds of Prey course on Saturday, flying over bumps on the super-G course and attacking sections of the hill few dared to challenge.

When he crossed the finish line, Viletta glanced up at the scoreboard and quickly began pumping his ski poles in jubilation. He was flying quite high after his first World Cup win.

Starting way back at 30th and with snow falling, Viletta held nothing back and finished in a time of 1 minute, 18.71 seconds to overtake Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway by 0.20 seconds. Beat Feuz of Switzerland took third.

"Just amazing," Viletta said. "I had such a great run."

A risk-filled run inspired by none other than Bode Miller.

Viletta watched Miller attack the downhill course Friday on the way to a gutsy win in which the American refused to tap the brakes.

Before pushing out of the starting gate, Viletta decided he was going to employ the same aggressive style as Miller. He was going to ski like Miller.

Well, as much as anyone can at least.

"To ski like him is not possible," Viletta said. "To risk a lot, it's possible."

On this day, Viletta did a better Miller impersonation than Miller could do himself.

On this day, Miller's hard-charging style led to an early mistake and he needed an acrobatic recovery just to stay on the course. Miller finished in 21st place, which was 1.40 seconds behind Viletta.

Afterward, Miller said he had the right line. And if he could've executed it properly, he might have been on the podium. That's how well he was skiing.

With Miller, it's either feast or famine. There's rarely anything in between.

"You've got to take a risk or you don't have a good chance," Miller told The Associated Press as made his way through the crowd and on down the hill after the race. "I was skiing well, but once you make that mistake there, it's over.

"I pushed everywhere, just one (bad) turn."

Andrew Weibrecht had the top finish for the United States as he finished 10th.

For Feuz, the beat goes on at Birds of Prey as he worked his way onto the podium for a second straight day. He was second in the downhill on Friday.

"The snow really seems to suit us Swiss," Feuz said through a translator.

It sure seems to as the team has made itself right at home at Birds of Prey.

The fact the Swiss had two skiers on the podium hardly came as a surprise. But that one wasn't named Didier Cuche was a little startling. Cuche entered the race as one of the favorites, but he wound up ninth for a second straight day.

Still, Cuche was quite pleased for his protÉgÉs.

After all, they help keep the 37-year-old Cuche young and skiing fast.

"The guys are pushing harder now," Cuche said. "It's good for the team."

But the 25-year-old Viletta was beginning to feel a little left out of the fun. The teammates he had grown up with — skiers such as Feuz, Carlo Janka and Daniel Albrecht — were already in the World Cup win column. Viletta was still searching for his first podium, let alone victory.

He kept a positive attitude, even with a balky back hampering him for a few years.

Viletta just had a feeling this day was close.

With the weather and the course precisely to his liking, Viletta let loose and picked up his first win.

"I risked all at the top," said Viletta, whose previous best finish was fourth in a giant slalom nearly three years ago in Adelboden, Switzerland. "I just pushed as much I can."

Just when Svindal was starting to think he had a win sewn up, along came Viletta's run.

Although Svindal didn't ski all that well at the top, he wasn't fretting since no one really had. Austria's Georg Streitberger, the defending champion at this event, skied off early, as did Ted Ligety of the U.S.

But once Svindal caught a glimpse of Viletta gliding through the top section of the hill so effortlessly, so smoothly, Svindal knew he was in trouble. Viletta had the top time through that demanding stretch and carried it on through to the finish.

"The way Viletta skied that (top), he absolutely earned the victory," Svindal said.

As a result of his first win, Viletta is hoping for a little perk on the flight home — an upgrade to business class.

Maybe riding in comfort will help ease his fear of flying.

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham can be reached at http://twitter.com/pgraham34.

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