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Hollenstein and Lehmann win battle of the stars

Sydney triathlon gold medallist, Brigitte McMahon, (seated) managed third place in Kloten

(Keystone)

Ice hockey player Felix Hollenstein and Swiss women's footballer Kathrin Lehmann are the new holders of the Super Decathlon title, having beaten off competition from some of the country's top stars in the annual charity event.

This year's contest, held in Kloten's Schluefweg arena, once again gave the athletes a chance to soar or tumble in disciplines far beyond their usual training routine. Olympic fencing silver medallist Diana Romagnoli was the first to lose her normal poise, twice crashing to the floor in a hair-raising moto-cross race.

Romagnoli had herself been brought into the contest as a late replacement for diver Jacqueline Schneider who injured her elbow in the same event during morning training. But Romagnoli was able to pick herself up in time to win the second event, a circuit race on office chairs, with able assistance from volleyballer Paul Laciga.

Romagnoli's fencing team-mate Gianna Hablützel-Bürki was meanwhile forging a less successful partnership with fellow silver medallist Michel Ansermet. The pair even came last in the only event to involve a fencing sword, suggesting that Hablützel-Bürki doesn't often strike at balloons while sitting in a bob-sled attached to a bungee rope.

"I'm really very happy that I don't have to fence with balloons in my competitions," Hablützel-Bürki told swissinfo after the ordeal. "That was definitely not my event."

The serious purpose behind the night's frivolities did get a thumbs up from the swordswoman though, with the money raised helping to fund the careers of athletes present and future.

"The Sporthilfe (sports fund) is very important, helping athletes to pay for transport costs and the like," shouted Hablützel-Bürki above the roars of some 5,000 spectators. "Without that money many of our athletes couldn't carry on with their sports."

Some of Wednesday's participants must have been longing to be safely back in their own specialised areas. Olympic 100 metres breast-stroke finalist Remo Lütolf admitted to feeling a little out of his depth.

"It is fun," he panted after slogging his way through a tennis match complete with giant rackets, "but I do wonder if the Olympic final wasn't easier. I certainly won't be telling my coach about any of these games, because he might get some ideas and I don't want that."

The night drew to a close with an Olympic-inspired torch relay race, but despite a strong finish from judoka Sergei Aschwanden and rower Pia Vogel, it wasn't the Sydney stars who took home the Super Decathlon's gold.

After winning by a single point, Hollenstein maintained the charitable theme, though, admitting that the chance to play in his own arena may have helped him and Lehmann a little bit.

"It's my home here," he laughed after picking up his trophy. "I know every square metre of the arena, so that may have given us a bit of an advantage."

Switzerland's biggest winner in Sydney, triathlon gold medallist Brigitte McMahon could only manage third place in Kloten but this was one competition in which she wasn't worrying about final places.

"The important thing is that events like this help the sporting associations to get sponsored," she explained. "We're all here to make sure that future athletes can get help."

And, perhaps, to hurry the next generation of fresh legs into taking over the challenge of office chair races and bungee bob-sled balloon popping.

by Mark Ledsom


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