December 11, 2005

Alpine skiing-Illegal bindings cost Defago victory

By Patrick Vignal

VAL D'ISERE, France (Reuters) - Switzerland's Didier Defago
was disqualified from a men's Alpine ski World Cup
super-combined event in which he had clocked the best time on
Sunday after officials ruled he had used illegal bindings.

The plates on the bindings of Defago's skis were measured
by officials after the race and found to be too high by a few
tenths of a millimeter.

Michael Walchhofer, who had clocked the second best
combined time, was proclaimed the winner and scored his second
victory of the weekend after leading an Austrian clean sweep in
the downhill here on Saturday.

"I feel sorry for Didier because he's such a nice guy,"
said Walchhofer.

"I would have been perfectly happy with second place. My
slalom run, in particular, pleased me and gives me a lot of
hope for the combined event of the Olympics."

Fellow Austrian Rainer Schoenfelder took second place with
American Bode Miller completing the podium to consolidate his
lead in the overall World Cup standings.

The authorized height between the base of the skis and the
plate of the binding on which the boot rests is 55 millimeters.

"It was measured about 10 times and half the measures
seemed to show it was okay while the other half didn't," said
Michel Vion, head of the competition department of the Swiss
racer's ski manufacturer, Rossignol.

"We accept that a rule is a rule but in this case we would
have appreciated a bit more understanding," said Vion, who was
seen shouting at World Cup race director Gunther Hujara in the
finish area.

"We take full responsibility for a small mistake with a big
effect," added Vion, who said Defago's serviceman had failed to
measure the skis before the race.

"We feel particularly sorry for Didier, who did nothing
wrong and had a fantastic race."


The race officials said the decision to disqualify Defago
was final and neither his team nor his ski manufacturer could
lodge an appeal.

The 28-year-old Defago, who was not among the pre-race
favorites, clocked the best time of two minutes 42.96 seconds
and had hoped for the second World Cup win of his career after
a super-G in 2002 in Val Gardena.

For several minutes he believed he had given the Swiss
men's team their first World Cup victory since Didier Cuche won
a downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in January 2004.

Defago was devastated after hearing about the mistake by
his serviceman and left the French Alpine resort without a

Canadian Erik Guay, who led after the downhill leg, ended
outside the top 20 after a big mistake near the top of the
slalom run.

There was disappointment also for Norwegian all rounder
Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who had hoped for his first World Cup
victory since 2003 after clocking the second best time in the
downhill section.

The 34-year-old Aamodt suffered on a deteriorating slalom
piste and finished fourth but nevertheless confirmed he was
back in top form after taking second place in a downhill last
month in Lake Louise, Canada.

A new event inaugurated last season, the super-combined
consists of a downhill and a one-run slalom, held on the same
day. The skier with the best combined time wins.

The men's World Cup continues on Monday with a slalom under
floodlights in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.