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Raich wins World Cup super-G in Switzerland

By Graham Dunbar

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 25 2012 12:15 p.m. MST

Austrian Benjamin Raich celebrates as the winner in the finish area of the men's Alpine Ski World Cup Super-G on the Piste Nationale in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012.

KeystoneAlessandro della Valle, Associated Press

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland — Austrian veteran Benjamin Raich got his first World Cup victory in more than two years on Saturday, winning a super-G while favorite Didier Cuche finished third.

"I never gave up and that is very important, if you are a sportsman or in life," Raich said.

Raich's technical skills were on display despite a serious knee injury one year ago, mastering a tough middle section as he clocked 1 minute, 34.37 seconds on the Nationale course. Adrien Theaux of France was runner-up, 0.24 seconds back, and Cuche trailed Raich by 0.36.

"After my accident last year and my injury, and after the two years without victory, it's great," Raich said. "I was sure that it was possible, but you never know. I worked really hard."

Bode Miller was sidelined for a second straight day, resting his left knee after undergoing minor knee surgery in the United States this week. Miller also will miss the giant slalom on Sunday.

Raich's 36th World Cup victory, sixth on the all-time list ahead of Miller, was his first in super-G.

The former World Cup overall champion, who will be 34 on Tuesday, last won in December 2009 at a super-combined event at Val d'Isere, France.

Andrew Weibrecht fared best of the U.S. racers, placing 20th to finish 1.94 behind Raich.

The Olympic bronze medalist in super-G lost time and several places after a mistake on the bottom section. Later starters found difficult course conditions with deep ruts in the snow and fading visibility.

"It was just a tactical error, coming in too straight. I thought it was easier than it was, and that's the race right there," Weibrecht said. "It's a challenging track and they used a lot of terrain in the middle section."

Ted Ligety placed 22nd and Ryan Cochran-Siegle earned World Cup points for the second time in his career by finishing 26th.

Cuche, who won Friday's super-G when Raich was third, praised his old rival.

"Nobody had enough patience to let him do what he is able to do," Cuche said. "But with Benni you can be sure that if he has no trouble, no pain, he will be back sooner or later."

Cuche helped attract 23,000 spectators to see him race in Switzerland for the final time this weekend before retiring.

Swiss teammate Beat Feuz skied with knee pain and finished 10th, missing another chance to take the overall standings lead from Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

Hirscher, defending overall champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia and Feuz are separated by just 15 points. Hirscher sat out Saturday's race to prepare for the giant slalom event on Sunday. Kostelic is expected to race again in two weeks after knee surgery.

Raich was injured at the 2011 World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It ended his season one year ago, but he has come back strong since January. His three podium finishes this season have all been in Switzerland.

Despite supporting Cuche, the knowledgeable Swiss crowd generously applauded Raich when he crossed the line after an impressively clean run on the soft snow.

Cuche lost his ideal line after a jump and was slowed by venturing into soupy snow at the side of the course.

"I knew that I was able to win again but you have to bring it from the top to the bottom. It cost me all the speed because I had to push into the soft snow," the 37-year-old Swiss star said.

However, Cuche closed to within seven points of super-G leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who placed ninth for the second consecutive day.

Jan Hudec of Canada rose to third in the discipline standings, after adding a fifth-place finish to his runner-up spot on Friday.

Two more super-G races are scheduled next weekend at Kvitfjell, Norway.

Colder temperatures are forecast for Sunday, and organizers have also salted the course to produce a harder surface that allows racers to carve sharper turns.

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