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Athletes limber up for Swiss championships

André Bucher celebrates after winning the men's 800 metres, at the Athletissima Meeting in Lausanne, a performance he is hoping to repeat Keystone

The Swiss Athletics Championships get underway in Lugano this weekend. The competition is being seen as a key testing ground for Swiss athletes ahead of the Sydney Olympic Games in September.

The highpoint of the weekend’s events in Lugano will be the men’s 400 metres, in which the current 800 metres record holder, André Bucher, will be pitting himself against some of the fastest athletes in this category.

Bucher has challenged 400 metres specialists, Laurent Clerc, Alain Rohr, Mathias Rusterholz and Nicolas Bäriswyl. Clerc’s best time over 400 metres is 46.37 seconds – only 0.16 seconds faster than Bucher’s best performance to date.

Even if he fails to topple Clerc, Bucher is assured a ticket to Sydney in the 800 metres category.

He will be joined by the 3,000 metres steeple chase specialist, Christian Belz, and the decathlon competitor, Philipp Huber. Also on their way to Australia are the marathon runners, Viktor Röchlin and Daria Nauer.

But nothing is guaranteed for the 400 metre hopefuls. They need to achieve a time of at least 46.20 seconds, the minimum needed to get selected for the Swiss 4 x 400 metres team. However, so far all the contenders have only achieved an average of 46.54 seconds.

Their task is being made more difficult by the absence of Kevin Widmer in Sunday’s 4 x 400 metres relay. Widmer has had persistent medical problems with his shins, which have forced him to cut short this season.

Julie Baumann will also miss Sunday’s 100 metres hurdles because of various injuries. The 36-year-old record holder feels she is not fit enough to take part in the Lugano competition, despite being in the Olympic squad.

Another highlight of the Lugano championships is the comeback of the 400 metres hurdles star, Marcel Schelbert. He came third at the last world championships, and will be trying to defend his record and his title in Lugano. He’s not expected to qualify for the Olympics.

Another Swiss hopeful for the Olympics, Anita Weyermann, will be looking to outrun her competitor, Sabine Fischer, over 1,500 metres in Lugano. Weyermann recently sacked her father, Fritz, as her personal coach, and is now being trained by the Swiss national coach, Christoph Schmid.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR