Donders and Della Santa qualify for Sydney
The Bernese sprinter Mireille Donders and the Ticinese hurdler Paolo Della Santa have qualified for the Sydney Olympics after passing the qualifying limit for the second time at this weekend's Swiss championships in Lugano.
The 26-year-old Donders scraped inside the 200 metres limit with a time of 23.06 seconds - just four hundredths of a second within the Olympic standard. Della Santa qualified for the 110 metre hurdles but had to settle for second place in the race itself after Raphael Monachon pipped him to the finish line.
With his time of 13.61 seconds Monachon beat the Olympic qualifying time for the first time - a feat he will have to repeat if he is to join his compatriots on the flight to Australia.
Despite his achievement, Della Santa said he was disappointed not to have won the race. "I wasn't even thinking about the (Olympic) limit," Della Santa insisted. "I just wanted to win in front of my home crowd."
There was more serious disappointment for some of Switzerland's biggest names on Sunday. The Swiss middle-distance runner, Anita Weyermann, had to settle for second place in her comeback appearance.
The Bernese runner was beaten in the 1,500 metres by Sabine Fischer who herself missed out on the Olympic qualifying limit by just 74 hundredths of a second. The result further reduces Weyermann's chances of reaching Sydney, although the Swiss Athletics Association has extended the period in which she has to qualify in consideration of the injury problems which have blighted her season.
Weyermann is seen as one of Switzerland's best medal hopes for the Olympics if she can get herself back on track. A bronze medallist at the World Championships, the 23-year-old athlete is the current Swiss record holder in the 1,500 metres.
Marcel Schelbert was also hoping to use the Lugano meeting to boost his return from injury. He at least could point to victory in the 400 metre hurdles final, but his time of 50.78 seconds was more than a second over the Olympic qualifying time.
Geneva's Laurent Clerc, on the other hand, had time to spare, winning the 400 metres final with a season's best time of 46.14 seconds. Although almost half a second over the individual Olympic standard, Clerc's time was within the required limit for the men's 4x400 metre relay event.
However, Clerc is so far the only Swiss runner to meet the requirement and, with just two weeks of qualifying left, the chances of three more athletes matching his achievement seem slim.
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