Skiing: Whistleblower Cuche slates FIS over fine

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The Independent Online

An emotional Didier Cuche of Switzerland criticised race officials after he won the World Cup super-G here in Norway yesterday, following the International Ski Federation's decision to fine the defending downhill champion for threatening a referee.

To claim his first super-G victory of the season, the 36-year-old Cuche edged out two Austrians by completing the Olympiabakken course in 1min 33.05sec. Klaus Kroell was second, 0.30sec behind, with Joachim Puchner a further 0.04sec back.

It was a remarkable recovery for the veteran after the FIS announced on Saturday that it would fine him 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,350) and issue a written warning for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

"This is the first win of my career that I can't enjoy," said Cuche. "I've hardly slept the last few nights and it was really hard to focus."

Cuche, going as No 22, turned the race on its head after the Austrians Puchner, Hannes Reichelt and Michael Walchhofer, Saturday's downhill winner, had dominated the podium places. Kroell, second in Saturday's downhill, then gave the Swiss some anxious moments as he challenged his split times in his charge down the hill. Cuche's victory seemed certain after the 30 top skiers had raced, but Sweden's Hans Olsson added a late twist by almost matching the leader's split times at the top of the hill before dropping back to sixth.

According to the FIS, Cuche had phoned the race director Gunter Hujara on Thursday evening to complain about a dangerous jump and said: "If you don't take the jump down and anything happens, I will not hesitate to attack you in public."

Cuche, however, said the referee had over-reacted. As a member of the FIS Athletes Commission, the defending World Cup downhill champion said he had called Hujara to reiterate the concerns of several racers over a potentially dangerous jump at the top of the course. "He wasn't prepared to do anything," Cuche said. "I told him that if anything happened at that jump, he couldn't expect me not to say I had told him before the race what could happen.

"He completely flipped out and said I was attacking him and threatening him and I said: 'No, I'm not, I'm just telling you that if something happens, I'm going to say that I told you'."

Cuche resigned from the commission on Saturday, arguing it was pointless for him to speak out on behalf of his fellow skiers if the governing body ignored their concerns. "I was really sad yesterday, not because of my seventh place (in the downhill) but because of the way the FIS and Gunter Hujara are acting with me."

The win took Cuche past the injured Georg Streitberger of Austria in the overall super-G standings, but he threatened that he might retire after next week's World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. "I'm almost turning 37, I'm not a kid any more, and if Gunter just wants to scream at me every time I say something then I'm in the wrong place."

Ivica Kostelic may have won the overall World Cup title on Saturday, but was not resting on his laurels yesterday. Ever the competitor, the Croat let fly with an angry oath in the finishing area after coming in eighth – much to the amusement of his team.