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Young guns Knabenschiessen: Celebrating sure shots in Zurich

Every September, Zurich teenagers prove their marksmanship skills in a target shooting competition dating back to the 16th century.

Called Knabenschiessenexternal link (boys’ shooting), the event used to be the sole domain of boys who were wrapping up a marksmanship course for defence purposes. It wasn’t until 1991 – the year Switzerland turned 700 – that girls were allowed to participate.

Now, the competition is open to all 13- to 17-year-olds living, studying or taking part in apprenticeships in canton Zurich, all of them vying to be crowned as the king or queen of marksmanship.

It is accompanied by a three-day festival with food and market stalls, live music and a fun fair. Monday is a local public holiday.

Despite its popularity in recent times, there hasn’t always been a Knabenschiessen each year through the centuries. Cancellations occurred sometimes during wartime or periods of economic difficulty.

Over the years, many have criticised or questioned the event. In 1990, some argued for a youth festival without the shooting competition. In 1992, Zurich narrowly rejected making such a change.

This year, 4,300 teens participated. Thirteen made it to the final round before 14-year-old Niel Geiger fired the winning shots. He won the top prize, CHF5,000 ($5,131), and he and the runner-ups also get a ride in a Super-Puma army helicopter.

Images: Keystone and RDB, Text: Susan Misicka,

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