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Viletta gives Swiss region its finest sports hour

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm •  Published: February 14, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Switzerland (AP) — Quietly and modestly, Sandro Viletta added some more Romansh to Valentine's Day.

The little-known Swiss skier capped an incredible day for the people of Graubuenden, a minority Romansh-speaking area of his country, by winning Olympic gold in the men's super-combined on Friday.

About an hour earlier, cross-country skier Dario Cologna won his third career Olympic title in the 15-kilometer classical event. Cologna is another of the 70,000 people who speak Switzerland's fourth and smallest officially recognized national language, which is derived from Latin.

"This situation is just fantastic," the 28-year-old Viletta said of Graubuenden's golden day. "We do represent the same region where we speak our own language, and for us this region is very special."

Although Cologna is a recognized star in Switzerland, even being voted the country's top sportsman in 2013 from a lineup that included tennis stars Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, Viletta's success in Sochi was a surprise.

He finished just ahead of one the main favorites, Ivica Kostelic. The Croatian had to settle for super-combined silver for the third straight Olympics, the first Winter Olympian to complete that second-place triple in an individual event. Christof Innerhofer of Italy won an unexpected bronze.

But the talk on this Valentine's Day was about Viletta, who won his only event at the Sochi Games. And after his victory, he was asked about his background.

"Yes, I speak Romansh," Viletta said. "Until 10 years old I was speaking only that language."

His answer was spoken in German, though he could also have expressed himself in French and Italian, the other official Swiss tongues. And English, naturally.

Back at home, the Romansh-language Radio Grischa station reported that the church bells in Viletta's home village of La Punt rang for 30 minutes to celebrate his victory.

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