Racer Improves With Age. Meat, Not So Much.

Feb 14, 2011
Outside Magazine

Bavarian Lunch                             At least something else besides the austrians came out hot: lunch in Bavaria.

Nothing against America and the US Ski Team, but over the past few ski racing seasons it’s the Swiss who’ve kept my attention. Maybe it’s the age-old rivalry they’ve got going on with the Austrians, or the dramatic comeback the Swiss have mounted in recent years to go from just pretty good to (often) f’in great. Despite that, the Swiss results at the World Alpine Ski Championships currently underway in Garmisch, Germany, have been tough for a ski racing fan like me to swallow—especially one who just flew into Munich to catch the tail end of the competition.

Just two years ago, the Swiss won the championship medal count. This year? Even the US is beating them, despite the fact that Ted Ligety can’t finish a race and the best Bode could do in the downhill was 15th. The Austrians are mopping it up in first place with four medals to the US’s two and Switzerland’s (gulp) one. Humiliating! My very big beer runneth over with tears.

But if there’s one glimmer of good news it’s not that Lindsey Vonn took the downhill silver or that a massive plate of meat and potatoes just arrived with that beer. It’s the fact that Switzerland’s lone medal went to Didier Cuche, the country’s elder ass-kicker. At 36, Cuche has raced in no fewer than 342 World Cups, stood on the podium 59 times, earned an Olympic medal, and won four championships—all gathered across a career that started nearly 20 years ago, when I was barely beyond the snowplow. Last year I met Cuche, a multilingual bruin with tree trunk legs, just as he was picking up his uniform for the Vancouver Olympics. Turns out he's a nice guy to boot. Here's what he said after missing the downhill gold over the weekend:

“I don't feel like I lost the gold. For me, I won second.”

Feel-goods words, sure, but not slowing down with age: brilliant.

--Tim Neville will be reporting live from the Bavarian Alps on the World Ski Championships.

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