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Abderhalden reclaims Swiss wrestling crown

Jörg Abderhalden has every reason for jubilation after his victory in Lucerne

(Keystone)

The world of Swiss-style wrestling - Schwingen - has a new king. He is 25-year-old Jörg Abderhalden, who on Sunday took the coveted wrestling crown for the second time in his career.

Abderhalden, a carpenter from canton St Gallen, took the title in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 at the Federal Wrestling and Alpine Games Festival in Lucerne.

The last time he won the competition, held only every three years, was in 1998 in Bern.

Abderhalden was a clear favourite to become king of the sport, which is mainly popular in the German-speaking part of the country, after four victories on Saturday.

Weighing in at 120kg and standing tall at 1.88m, Abderhalden took the title ahead of 290 other competitors.

Successful ten weeks

No wrestler has been as successful as Abderhalden this season. He has taken seven regional titles in ten weeks, a feat only matched by another celebrated name in the sport, his uncle Ernst Schläpfer.

Those taking part in the Lucerne wrestling event included 15 representatives of the Swiss abroad and a member of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard.

The festival’s importance was underlined by the presence of this year’s Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, who called the competition “a reminder of traditional values”.

Deiss joked that while the wrestlers only had to stand up to each other every three years at the festival, he had to fight in the political arena every week.

“At a time when everything is changing, it is good that we know how to stay faithful to our traditions,” said Deiss.

But he added that respect for traditions should not be at the expense of opening up to the rest of the world.

Switzerland must adapt

“While wrestling today is an elite sport which calls for agility, endurance, speed, strength and technique, Switzerland must constantly adapt if it wants to stay at the forefront of global competitiveness,” said Deiss.

He also called on spectators not to be afraid of international cooperation, but to “show the world who we are and what we can do”.

The crowd in Lucerne also saw a record in another popular event held at the festival, stone-throwing.

Markus Maire from Plaffeien in canton Fribourg became the first man to throw the celebrated 83.5kg Unspunnen stone a distance of more than four metres.

The stone landed 11 centimetres clear of the four-metre line, beating the previous record by 14 centimetres.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The two-day event in Lucerne cost SFr6 million ($4.8 million) to stage and attracted about 100,000 people.
Seventy-five tons of sawdust was used in the seven circular wrestling rings.
The Swiss Federal Railways put on 27 special trains to transport people to and from the festival.

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