Nothing slows down daredevil alpine skiing racers

Mon Feb 2, 2009 11:40pm EST
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By Patrick Vignal

VAL D'ISERE, France (Reuters) - It takes more than a crash, no matter how brutal, to turn downhill ski racers into a rational breed.

For the men and women who hurtle down vertiginous, rock-hard pistes at high speed, their bodies covered only by a thin layer of synthetic material, danger is just part of the deal.

Definitely brave and arguably mad, the daredevil racers are preparing to tackle the extremely steep Bellevarde piste at the world championships starting on Tuesday in the French Alps resort of Val d'Isere.

One racer who should have been there, Swiss super-combined world champion Daniel Albrecht, was instead still in an induced coma after his horrendous accident in World Cup training in Kitzbuehel last month.

Not even seeing Albrecht fly through the air and land heavily on his back after losing his balance off the final jump of the awe-inspiring Streif piste could dent the determination of his fellow downhillers.

"Of course it's difficult and we talked about it between us a lot but what we have to do is carry on doing our job and take all the risks that go with it," Switzerland's Didier Defago, who won the Kitzbuehel downhill, told Reuters.

"That's what Dani would want."

Fully aware of the dangers of their sport, downhill racers cope by laughing them off or putting them out of their minds.   Continued...

<p>Switzerland's Daniel Albrecht crashes on the Streif slope during the last practice for the Alpine Skiing World Cup downhill race in Kitzbuehel in this January 22, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/Files</p>