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Federer and Schneider named Switzerland’s greatest athletes

Roger Federer and Vreni Schneider Keystone

Roger Federer and Vreni Schneider have been chosen as Switzerland’s best sportsman and sportswoman of the past 70 years.

This content was published on December 14, 2020 - 11:51
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The Covid-19 pandemic meant that for the first time the Swiss Sports Awards, held annually since 1950, were given for all-time feats rather than just for the past year. Winners were chosen on Sunday by a jury of 120 previous prize-winners and television audience.

The who’s who of national sporting heroes met in the Zurich television studios of Swiss public television, SRF, on Sunday. Of the 12 athletes nominated, only Simone Niggli-Luder was not present. The 23-time orienteering world champion joined by video from her adopted country Sweden.

This had often been the case for Roger Federer, who received many of his seven Swiss Sportsman of the Year awards from his training base in Dubai. This time, however, the 39-year-old tennis star was present in person and talked about the exceptional year, which in his case was marked by two knee operations and a long break from competition since the Australian Open in January.

There was no doubt that the winner of 20 grand slam titles would lift the trophy for the best Swiss sportsman of the past 70 years. Federer has been the biggest star in Swiss sport for two decades and is probably Switzerland’s greatest ambassador. He received almost half of all votes (49.1%), clearly beating cross-country skier Dario Cologna (12.8%) and downhill skier Pirmin Zurbriggen (11.9%).

‘Golden Vreni’

Skier Vreni Schneider was chosen as the best female athlete, also by some distance. The 56-year-old received over 40% of all votes, ahead of fellow skier Erika Reymond-Hess (15.9%) and Niggli-Luder (15.4%).

From 1988 until her retirement in 1995 “Golden Vreni” was named Swiss Sportswoman of the Year a record five times. She remains Switzerland’s most successful female skier, having won three overall World Cup titles, three Olympic gold medals and three World Championship gold medals.

Today she runs a ski and snowboard school in her home village of Elm, eastern Switzerland, as well as a sport equipment shop.

Not forgetting…

In the other categories, Jean-Pierre Egger was named Best Coach and Heinz Frei Best Paralympic athlete of all time.

Egger, 77, has guided countless sporting greats to success over the decades. His success began with his collaboration with the three-time shot put world champion Werner Günthör.

Frei, 62, a pioneer of wheelchair racing, has won 15 gold medals at the Paralympics. In 1987 he became the first Swiss disabled athlete of the year; nine further awards followed until 2009.

Two years after being named Team of the Year, the Swiss national ice hockey team was honoured once again. As World Cup finalists in 2018, they beat out the under-17 football World Champions of 2009 and the Davis Cup tennis heroes of 2014 in the Best Team category.

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