Switzerland has chosen the middle-distance runner, André Bucher, and the triathlon specialist, Brigitte McMahon, as its sports personalities of the year 2000.
A live television poll provided the votes in Friday's Sports Gala in Bern, after a select group of Swiss sports journalists offered the viewers with a choice of three names in the male and female categories. Just under 59 per cent of television viewers, who called the telephone hotline, voted for Bucher, while 56.6 per cent voted for McMahon.
Bucher who failed to win a medal at the Sydney Olympics beat the Olympic rower, Xeno Müller, by a margin of more than 25 per cent. Müller didn't attend the ceremony but chose to participate via a live satellite link at his home in California instead.
The third nominee in the male category, the 25 metres pistol specialist, Michel Ansermet, only got 15.4 per cent in the television polls.
After the winners were announced, André Bucher told swissinfo: "I'm very happy to win this prize. I think the people voted for me tonight because I ran my best races here in Switzerland, most notably in Zurich and Lausanne this year".
Asked about his future goals for 2001, Bucher said: "I'm going to run the World Indoor Championships in March and my other goal will be the World Athletics Championships in Edmonton, Canada, in August. I'm also going to focus on the 800 metres event in the Golden League next year".
Brigitte McMahon, who made Olympic history by taking gold at the first ever women's triathlon in Sydney, was the clear winner in her category. The Swiss favoured her over the fencer Gianna Hablützel-Bürki (25.9 per cent) and the swimmer, Flavia Rigamonti (17.5 per cent).
"It's really a great honour for me to receive recognition by my country, Switzerland," McMahon told swissinfo on hearing she had won. She said: "It's like winning another gold medal after my gold in Sydney and that makes me very proud."
McMahon is already setting her sights on the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where she intends to defend her title. However, she is fully aware that four years is a long time. "It's hard to judge who is going to be there in four years and in what shape," McMahon pointed out.
When asked what significance the annual Sports Gala has for Swiss sport, McMahon replied: "It puts a different light on sport. People aren't athletic all the time. It shows that professional athletes are just like you and me".
The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, congratulated Bucher and McMahon personally at the ceremony. The winners were presented with a specially crafted sculpture as a keepsake.
However, there were also prize winners in four other categories. The Swiss Olympic women's fencing team, including Gianna Hablützel-Bürki, Sophie Lamon and Diana Romagnoli, received a prize for the best team effort of the year 2000.
The team won silver medals at the Sydney Olympics. Fifteen-year-old Sophie Lamon, said: "The award is a great honour and an important recognition in the world of sport."
Switzerland's reigning football champions, FC St Gallen, narrowly missed out in this category.
Lukas Christen, who won two athletics events at this year's Sydney Paralympics, won an award for disabled sports personality of the year. Christen, who is an amputee from canton Lucerne, said: "Tonight's award ceremony was a very welcome break after a long and interesting path as an athlete which I shall always treasure."
The award for sport's promoter of the year was handed to the golf enthusiast and founder of the Crans-Montana European Golf Masters, Gaston Barras. It is the second time in a row this prize has been given to a canton Valais-based personality.
Last year "Sion 2006 Switzerland" took the title. The Swiss sculptur, Günter Gianni Piontek received a prize for his artistic work devoted to sporting subjects.
by Greg Morsbach