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Bucher carries Swiss hopes to Edmonton

Germany's Nils Schumann (right) is likely to be the main rival to André Bucher (centre) in Edmonton

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss 800m athletics star, André Bucher, is carrying Swiss hopes of gold medal success with him to the World Championships in Athletics, which begin Friday in Edmonton, Canada.

More than 1,800 of the world's elite athletes from over 200 countries, including American sprint stars Maurice Greene and Marion Jones, are descending on the Canadian city for the 10-day premier track-and-field event.

All eyes in Switzerland, however, will be focused on Bucher. The Lucerne-based player, who has run the world's best time in the 800m this year, will be setting his own sights on a gold medal in Edmonton when he heads for the starting line.

Bucher set the fastest time in the world at last month's Golden League athletics meeting in Monte Carlo, where he won the race in 1:42.90.

Fifth in the 800m in Sydney last summer, Bucher will once again be facing strong competition in Edmonton from two of his erstwhile Olympic rivals.

Germany's Nils Schumann, the 2000 Olympic champion, and the South African athlete, Hezekiel Sepeng, who beat Bucher to take fourth place in Sydney, will both be joining the Swiss star on the starting blocks once again in Edmonton.

At a press conference prior to Friday's opening ceremony, Schumann made it clear he knew who his main opponent was likely to be.

"The title is still wide open," he commented, "but I think the race for the gold medal will be between me and André Bucher."

Both Bucher and Schumann have been spending the last few days training on the campus of Calgary University, around 300km south of the stadium in Edmonton where they will meet for real during the championships.

"For the last four years we have been racing against each other," Schumann commented.

"I wouldn't exactly say we were real friends, but we certainly respect each other. Two years ago we even met for a beer together for the first time."

Watching Sabine Fischer

Swiss attention in Canada is also likely to focus on Sabine Fischer, who is scheduled to compete in the women's 1500m.

Fischer will be looking to improve on her performance in Sydney, where she established her presence on the international athletics arena with a ninth-place finish in the 1500m finals.

Fischer suffered a setback in her training programme prior to Edmonton, following a stress fracture in her left foot.

But the Rapperswil-based athlete will be hoping to put any injury worries behind her as she warms up for the world championships.

Christian Belz, the Swiss 3000m steeplechaser, will be doing well to get past the qualifying rounds in Edmonton, while men's 1500m runner, Alain Rohr, would also be delighted with a place in the finals.

swissinfo with agencies


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