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Skiing: Swiss miss is finally a hit

SWISS FANS were finally able to jangle their cow bells in celebration when Karin Roten won a World Cup slalom yesterday and ended two years of disappointment for her country.

Roten won on home snow in Veysonnaz, ending a humiliating drought for Swiss women that stretched back to January 1997 when Heidi Zurbriggen won a downhill in Cortina. Her compatriot, Michael Von Grunigen, capped a good day for the country when he won the men's World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia after a superb second run.

"It's a bit of a relief, it was important for Switzerland because we needed a win, or at least a podium this season," Roten said. Holding a slim 0.23sec advantage over the America's Kristina Koznick after the first leg, Roten charged down the deteriorating Piste d'Ours course in a combined time of 1min 28.81sec, crossing the line to the clang of cow bells and wild cheers.

In Italy, Von Grunigen, the 1997 giant slalom world champion, finished in a combined time for the two runs of 2min 41.01sec to claim his first World Cup victory of the season.The Norwegian Lasse Kjus was 10th but kept his lead in the men's overall standings.

On Saturday, the men's World Cup downhill in Val Gardena saw the French Olympic champion, Jean-Luc Cretier, crash badly. He was taken to hospital with a career-threatening knee injury. Kristian Ghedina won the race in 2min 04.17sec.

In Veysonnaz, Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria won her first World Cup downhill.