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Federer crowned top sportsman for third time

Roger Federer speaking from Dubai, on receiving his third Swiss Sportsman of the Year award Keystone

Tennis king Roger Federer and snowboard gold medallist Tanja Frieden have been named athletes of the year by the Swiss public at the national sports awards.

They were joined on the podium by the Swiss national football team and their trainer, Köbi Kuhn, Arsenal defender Johan Djourou and wheelchair athlete Edith Hunkeler.

Federer, who was linked to Bern live on Saturday night from Dubai, won almost 60 per cent of the votes, leaving ice-skater Stéphane Lambiel (29 per cent) and cyclist Fabian Cancellara (13 per cent) in his wake.

The 25-year-old from Basel, considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time, missed out on a hat-trick last year when he was beaten by motorcyclist Thomas Lüthi. But while Lüthi appears to have suffered from winner’s jinx this year, Federer has gone from strength to strength.

In January he won the Australian Open for the second time and in June he beat Rafael Nadal – the one player who has almost cracked Federer’s game – to win the Wimbledon championship for the fourth time in a row. In September he won his third consecutive US Open title.

In 2006 Federer lost to only two players: Nadal in the French Open final, Rome final, Monte Carlo final, and Dubai final; and Andy Murray in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters. The loss to Murray was Federer’s only straight-sets loss of the year.

In April he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador to Unicef and earlier this month he was named BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year for the second time.

Lady luck

In the women’s category, Tanja Frieden, a 30-year-old snowboard professional and teacher from Bern, was recognised for winning gold in the inaugural Snowboard Cross competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

However, it is hard to believe that Frieden would have won on Saturday had she not been the beneficiary of pride coming before an acutely embarrassing fall.

In one of the most memorable sporting events of the year, US favourite Lindsey Jacobellis was coasting to victory in Turin when she tried to pull off a completely unnecessary trick on the penultimate jump. She got it hopelessly wrong, fell and could only pray for the ground to swallow her as an incredulous Frieden overtook her metres from the finish line.

With 38 per cent of the votes, Frieden pipped Daniela Meuli, who won gold in the parallel giant slalom in Turin, and tennis player Martina Hingis.

Some might consider Martina Schild, who won a silver in the women’s downhill event in Turin – and who didn’t benefit from any lucky slip-ups – hard done by, having to make do with runner-up in the Best Newcomer category.

Team effort

For the second year in a row, the team of the year and trainer of the year awards went to the Swiss national football team and their coach Jakob “Köbi” Kuhn.

The Swiss, who will co-host the 2008 European Championship with neighbouring Austria, were recognised for qualifying to the last 16 in the World Cup in Germany in June.

Once there, however, nerves got to a young squad and they went out on penalties to Ukraine in probably the poorest match of the tournament. Switzerland became the first team to fail to score a single penalty in a penalty shoot-out.

The loss came as a huge blow after Swiss expectations had been raised with a series of promising performances, but the team could take heart from becoming the first team to not concede a goal in open play in a World Cup.

Other awards went to 19-year-old footballer Johan Djourou, who picked up the Best Newcomer award, and Edith Hunkeler, who won the disabled athlete award for the fifth time.

Djourou’s performance this year as a central defender at top London team, Arsenal, earned him a place in the Swiss World Cup squad and he made three appearances in Germany, contributing to clean sheets against France, South Korea and Ukraine.

Hunkeler, 34, has been in a wheelchair since a car crash 12 years ago but has amassed medals of all colours at all distances and continued her success in 2006.

swissinfo with agencies

Sportsman of the year: Roger Federer (tennis)
Sportswoman: Tanja Frieden (snowboarding)
Team: national football team
Newcomer: Johan Djourou (football)
Trainer: Köbi Kuhn (national football team)
Disabled: Edith Hunkeler (athletics)

The sportsman, sportwoman and team of the year are elected by television viewers during the programme on Saturday night.

The audience had to choose from a shortlist chosen by Swiss sports bodies and sports journalists.

The newcomer of the year was chosen by the public via the internet or sms before the awards ceremony.

The disabled athlete of the year was chosen by sports journalists, and the manager of the year by the national trainers association.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR