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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 13:42 GMT
Sibling rivalry
By Anna Thompson
Winter sports editor

Noel Baxter
Noel Baxter in action at the 2006 Winter Olympics

Noel Baxter's ski career has always been in the shadow of his more successful elder brother Alain.

But this season could see a shift in power between the competitive Scottish siblings.

With Great Britain granted only one World Cup start place in the men's slalom races because of poor recent performances, 32-year-old Alain has been the preferred choice in previous seasons.

Alain, who "won" Britain's first ever alpine skiing Olympic medal in 2002 before being stripped of it for failing a drugs test, will start in the first World Cup slalom of the season at Levi in Finland on 12 November.

But because his wife Sheila is due to give birth to their first child in late November, he will not travel to north America for the Beaver Creek slalom at the beginning of December.

This means Noel will get his chance in a World Cup race after a frustrating season of having to compete on the second tier European Cup tour.

And once he has got the coveted start place he has no intentions of relinquishing it again.

He told BBC Sport: "It's great to be given the chance in a World Cup race and Alain accepts the decision. Now it's all down to me and how I perform and I want to grasp this opportunity with both hands.

"Last season I changed my equipment and started getting results and I'm skiing with confidence.

"Once you can crack the top 20 in a race, it's possible to get in the top five. Success is within grasping distance."

I had a really great summer and it was good to train with such a great group as they have really pushed me and that can only benefit my downhill

Noel Baxter

The 25-year-old has also decided not to concentrate solely on the slalom but to see how he fares in World Cup combined races too.

The combined discipline is a downhill race and two slalom legs with the combined fastest time the winner.

He convinced his coaches to allow him to enter the combined at the 2006 Winter Olympics and finished a credible 14th - 25th fastest in the downhill and 10th in the slalom.

Noel explained: "I used to be an all-round skier but had a bad crash in a super-G when I was a teenager and from then on I've concentrated on the technical disciplines.

"But I really enjoy having the variety now, it spreads the load and I'm much more happy."

Noel spent the summer in South America and trained with British downhiller Finlay Mickel and Craig Branch of Australia.

They also spent three weeks with the US ski team, minus Bode Miller, in Chile.

"I had a really great summer and it was good to train with such a great group as they have really pushed me and that can only benefit my downhill," said Noel.

Noel competed in four races while in South America and won three of them and finished seventh in a super-G.

"It all went so well in the summer, now all I need to do is to take that form into the World Cup."

Although Noel has had a good summer results and preparation wise, it has not been so good on the funding front as he learned he had lost his personal UK Sport funding.

The alpine skiing budget itself has been almost halved by UK Sport because of poor performances in World Cup races and the Winter Olympics.

Noel added: "I thought it was a bit harsh on me because there wasn't a set criteria and I've been skiing better than some of my results suggested.

"But there's nothing I can do about it now, I've just got to let my skiing do the talking."



SEE ALSO
GB ski chief unhappy at fund cut
31 Jul 06 |  Winter Sports
GB winter sports given cash boost
27 Jul 06 |  Winter Sports
Baxter celebrates British title
03 Apr 06 |  Winter Sports


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