Didier Cuche wins record fifth Kitzbuehel downhill on the Hahnenkamm

Didier Cuche in action

At 37, veteran Swiss skier Didier Cuche proved he was still capable of mixing it with the best when he secured a record fifth downhill win on one of the World Cup's most challenging courses.

Cuche completed Kitzbuehel's infamous Hahnenkamm course in one minute 13.28 seconds in heavy snowfall to beat Austrian pair Romed Baumann and Klaus Kroell.

The 18-time World Cup winner, who is already the oldest skier to win a World Cup race, announced his retirement on Thursday.

But he showed no signs of easing up just yet as he overtook the record set by Austrian great Franz Klammer who won the prestigious Kitzbuehel race four times in the 1970s and 80s.

"That record was my final thought before I left the start gate,'' said Cuche. "Somehow it helped me to relax a bit and to enjoy my run.

"It's not been easy. I knew this was going to be my last race on the Streif, but I managed to stay focused and perform well.

"It was pretty nerve wracking to wait in the finish area, as I realised that the upper section of my run until the Haubergkante was not perfect.

"I skied well on the lower section, though, which was the deciding factor in my victory.

"It feels really great. Being back here and winning this race again, it's a great feeling."

Klammer, 58, was one of the first people to congratulate Cuche following his record victory.

"Cuche is now the King of Kitzbuehel, I can live with that,'' said Klammer. "I think he should have quit already before this season!

"It was a fantastic win for Didier. He was incredibly fast and attacked the course even though there was bad light. He was amazing today."

Warm weather, heavy rain and wet snow in the days leading up to the event meant organisers had to reduce the length of the course from 3.3km to 2km while a 500-strong crew worked through the night to clear snow from the piste.

But Cuche insisted it didn't affect his race: "As an athlete, you don't think too much about it on race day because you're there to focus and win anywhere," he said.

"I saw during the inspection that the slope was in great shape up top, and the organisers deserve massive credit for that given the weather.

"I'm not really disappointed not to have won from the top. The last time the race was from the top, I won it."

Cuche, a former butcher from Neuchatel, is a firm favourite with the Swiss public thanks to his easy manner with fans.

In 2009, he won Switzerland's national sports award despite tennis legend and countryman Roger Federer finally getting his hands on the French Open title and then securing record-breaking 15th Grand Slam single at Wimbledon.

Then earlier this month, he was named Swiss of the Year once more despite failing on his 13th attempt to win Swizterland's biggest sporting event - the Lauberhorn downhill at Wengen - hours before the ceremony.

The veteran has now collected 18 World Cup wins, 61 podiums and amassed a staggering 171 top 10 finishes.

He won Olympic silver at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan and picked up one gold, two silvers and four bronze at World Championships.

You can see highlights from Kitzbuehel on Ski Sunday at 1645 on BBC Two on 22 January

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