La Clusaz, France Nov. 5, 2001 (AP by Thierry Boinet)--Former ski greats joined thousands of others in a final tribute to Regine Cavagnoud in her Alpine village amid debate over dangerously high speeds in the sport.
``The memory of Regine will not be extinguished from our hearts,'' French Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet said of the former World Cup winner who died from injuries in a training accident in Austria last week.
Some 500 relatives and friends packed the Sainte-Foy church where her coffin lay covered in flowers, while 3,000 fans and neighbors watched the ceremony on giant screens erected in the main square of this small ski station.
``Regine will always be a guide, a torch light for us,'' said French Ski Federation head Bernard Chevallier, who was next to a massive picture of a joyful Cavagnoud displaying her super-G world championship medal.
Also at the funeral were her former teammates in the French national ski team, representatives from the Austrian, Swiss and Italian teams, former world champion Luc Alphand and former Olympic champion Alberto Tomba.
Her parents, sister and boyfriend of 10 years who led the cortege outside the church, later went to the village cemetery where she was to be laid to rest, at the foot of the slopes where she began skiing at 3.
The 31-year-old Cavagnoud died two days after slamming into German coach Markus Anwander at about 40 mph during a training run on the Pitztal glacier.
She was immediately airlifted to a hospital in Innsbruck but tests later showed her brain had ceased to function and the respirator keeping her alive was switched off.
After her death, several retired French skiing figures called for improved safety measures, reviving a debate over excessively high speeds in competitive skiing.
Marielle Goitschel, the 1968 Olympic slalom champion, has said ``high-level competitive skiing is horribly dangerous'' and ``one day or another ... things will have to be reduced in terms of speed.''
``Even if you have a safety net and mattresses it's pathetic,'' she said, referring to skiers hurtling down the mountain at 75 mph.
Questions also have been raised about safety guidelines during training, particularly after it emerged the German and French teams were operating on different walkie-talkie frequencies.
Austrian authorities are investigating the accident.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press