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Bucher brilliant again

Bucher celebrates his 800m victory with flowers and a smile to the crowd

(Keystone)

Less than ten days after winning gold at the World Athletics Championships in Edmonton, Switzerland's André Bucher was celebrating again on Friday after winning the 800m on home soil at the Weltklasse Golden League athletics meeting in Zurich.

Bucher stole ahead on the back straight to win the race with a time of 1:42.55, beating his previous personal best time of 1:42.90 and setting a new Swiss record into the bargain. Burundi's Jean-Patrick Nduwimana finished second on 1:42.81, while Kenya's Wilfred Bungei came in third on 1:42.96.

Germany's Nils Schumann, the reigning 800m Olympic champion, could only manage a disappointing eighth place.

"After Edmonton I came back and the whole crowd was waiting for me and celebrating," Bucher said in an interview with swissinfo.

"I knew I wanted to go for a good performance here in Zurich, especially in front of the home crowd."

Bucher retains his unbeaten record in the 2001 Golden League series (the 24-year-old did not compete at the Oslo meeting) and now needs just one further victory to claim a share of the 50 kilogram gold jackpot, which is divided among any athletes who manage to win at five of the seven Golden League events.

The organisers had promised an event that would pack all the excitement of Edmonton into a single night and they did not disappoint the 24,000 capacity crowd.

Aside from Bucher, no less than 25 other world champions descended on Zurich's Letzigrund stadium.

But one of the biggest names in international athletics, the 100m world record holder Maurice Greene, was missing from the starting line-up. So it was up to Greene's American compatriot, Tim Montgomery, to take the 100m with a winning time of 9.90.

Montgomery seemed satisfied with his performance but admitted he had hoped to surpass Greene's record-breaking 9.79 set in 1999.

"I'm very pleased I beat the stadium record," he told swissinfo. "The crowd here is great and I just wish I'd been able to bring them the world record."

Fellow American Marion Jones raced to victory in the women's 100m, clocking up a time of 10.94, a tenth of a second off her seasonal best but fast enough to take revenge for her disappointment in Edmonton.

The Ukraine's Zhanna Pintusevich-Block, who stole ahead of Marion Jones at the world championships to take gold, could only manage fifth place in Zurich.

Romania's Violeta Szekely, silver medallist at last year's Sydney Olympics, secured her fifth Golden League victory in a row, after winning the women's 1,500m in a time of 3:59.94.

Szekely's victory means she now becomes the first athlete to be guaranteed a share in the gold jackpot.

"I'm just so happy to have won the jackpot," the 36-year-old told swissinfo after the race.

"I don't care how many others go on to share it with me, I'm just happy for myself."

Switzerland's Sabine Fischer could only manage 10th place in the 1500m, finishing the race just under 14 seconds behind the Romanian. Fischer's Swiss compatriot, Anita Weyermann, brought up the rear in 12th place.

"Had I known how disastrous it would be, I wouldn't have competed," Weyermann admitted as she stepped off the track.

"I was not relaxed at all and even thought of taking the emergency exit with 400m to go for the first time in my life," she added.

The controversial Russian athlete Olga Yegorova took first place in the 3,000m with a time of 8:23.26, just under a second ahead of her nearest rival, Romania's Gabriela Szabo.

Yegorova's victory marks her return to the track for the first time since her drug-tainted victory in the world championship 3,000m.

The 29-year-old was suspended after testing positive for the banned substance EPO at the second Golden League meeting of the season in Paris on July 6. But the suspension was lifted by the International Athletics Federation at the beginning of August after an irregularity was discovered in the testing procedure.

Yegorova overlooked the boos from some sections of the crowd following her victory, remarking only that she wanted to "thank the public for supporting me".

It was a disappointing night for the rest of the Swiss stars, with 400m hurdle specialist Marcel Schelbert and 800m runner Anita Brägger both finishing in last place.

But the Swiss wheelchair athlete, Franz Nietlispach, delighted the crowd when he set a new world record in the 1500m. He finished in a time of 2:56.61 to beat the record he himself set last year by nearly four-tenths of a second.

Unable to compete in Edmonton following a hand injury, Nietlispach was delighted with his performance back on home soil.

"Now everything is back to normal," he said, "and I'm very pleased with a new world record."

The penultimate Golden League meeting of the season takes place in Brussels on August 24, with the final stage of the premier athletics series scheduled for August 31 in Berlin.

swissinfo


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