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Röthlin grabs bronze at world championships

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Viktor Röthlin has finished third in the men's marathon at the world athletics championships in Osaka, Japan.

The fast-finishing Swiss took bronze on Saturday in two hours 17 minutes and 25 seconds behind winner Luke Kibet of Kenya and Qatar's Mubarak Hassan Shami.

Röthlin's medal came thanks a huge effort over the last two kilometres of the race, when he passed three other runners to finish just seven seconds behind Shami.

Shortly before, the Swiss had seemed to be out the running in sixth place, 80 metres behind the third-placed athlete after nearly 40 kilometres. In most cases, Röthlin would have not been able to catch up, but he said something unexpected happened.

"An Australian training partner watching the race shouted out that the others in front were tiring and that I could catch them," he explained after the race. "I had to dig deep."

"And then I saw the Africans ahead of me going all pale and that encouraged me to go after the bronze," he added.

Röthlin, who considers his medal a gift, was just relieved to make across the finishing line.

"I thought I was going to die four times during the race," he said. "After 25 kilometres, the heat was so oppressive that my head was hurting."

The Japanese, big fans of marathon running, were surprised by the Swiss runner's final rush. Japan's Tyoshi Ogata, who thought he would finish third, didn't even see him coming.

"I didn't have my wits about me because of the heat," said Ogata, who many observers believe underestimated the Swiss athlete. "I didn't want to finish fourth."

Tough conditions

Heat and humidity were big factors during the opening event of the 2007 world championships. The temperature hovered around 30 degrees Celsius and relative humidity was at 60 per cent during the race.

The winner's time – over two hours and 15 minutes - was the slowest ever recorded at the championships.

Röthlin recorded his third major result over the past 12 months. Last summer, he finished second at the European championships in Sweden and in April he broke his national record at the Zurich marathon.

The Swiss athlete had prepared the race by arriving early in Japan to get used to conditions for his 16th marathon, as he did not know how his body would react to the heat and humidity.

His preparation seems to have paid off since a number of favourites fell by the wayside during the event, including the highly fancied Ethiopians. Röthlin can look forward now to next year's Olympic marathon in Beijing, which promises similar conditions.

swissinfo with agencies

Swiss team

Röthlin was the main Swiss medal hope at the world championships.

Another potential medal winner is Cuban-born triple-jumper Alexander Martinez.

The other Swiss athletes taking part are Stefan Müller (javelin), Sylvie Dufour, Simone Oberer and Linda Züblin (heptathlon), Marco Cribari and Marc Schneeberger (200 m), Anna-Katharina Schmid (pole vault), Andreas Kundert (110-metres hurdles), Félix Loretz (javelin) and Marie Polli (20 km walk).

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Medal winners

Viktor Röthlin is the fifth Swiss to earn a medal at the world athletics championships.

Werner Günthör was a three-time world champion in the shot put event (1987, 1991 and 1993).

Anita Weyermann finished third over 1,500 metres in Athens in 1997.

Marcel Schelbert was also third over the 400 metres hurdles in Sevilla in 1999.

The last Swiss world champion was André Bucher who won the 800 metres race in Edmonton in 2001.

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