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Making a splash

Rigamonti crawled her way to yet more success in 2001 Keystone

Switzerland's sports stars achieved better results in the water than on it in 2001. In the final part of swissinfo's sports review we sum up the year in swimming and rowing.

World silver

After finishing fourth in the final of the 800-metre freestyle at last year Sydney Olympics, Ticino’s Flavia Rigamonti continued to lead the way for the Swiss swimmers in 2001.

At July’s world championships in Fukuoka, Japan, the 20-year-old won became the first Swiss swimmer in 15 years to win a world championship medal – taking silver in the newly introduced 1,500-metre freestyle.

“It’s a big surprise to win here,” said a delighted Rigamonti after knocking an incredible 22 seconds off her own previous Swiss record, “and a great start to my build-up for the 2004 Olympics.”

European gold

Rigamonti cemented her reputation as one of the sport’s hottest young talents earlier this month when she won gold over 800 metres at the European short course championships in Antwerp, this time knocking more than four seconds off her previous best time.

“I was totally surprised when I saw my time,” Rigamonti told swissinfo afterwards, “because I had no idea how fast I was going.”

Faster in 2002?

Currently combining her sporting career with studies at the Southern Methodist University in Texas, the Swiss swimmer remains confident that she can get even faster in 2002.

“I’m looking to keep up the great start which I’ve made to the season,” Rigamonti said. “I hope I can improve further and come back next summer in as good a shape or an even better shape as I am now.”

While none of the other Swiss swimmers were able to win a medal at the year’s two major tournaments, the year ended satisfactorily in Antwerp with several members of the squad reaching finals and nine national records toppling.

Rowers lack rhythm

Above the waves, Switzerland’s rowers were unable to emulate the success of Rigamonti when their sport’s world championships descended on Swiss waters.

More than 1,000 rowers from 49 countries converged on Lucerne in August as the world championships made its fourth appearance at the city’s magnificent Rotsee Lake.

Unfortunately for the home fans, the Swiss performances were unable to live up to the stunning setting. Xeno Müller and Pia Vogel were both seen as gold medal contenders in the single sculls but ultimately had to settle for fifth place and a bronze medal respectively. Despite failing to meet popular expectations, both insisted they were not too disappointed.

“It was very important for me to reach the final and I had an exceptional race in the semis,” the California-based Müller told swissinfo. “A medal would have been really beautiful, but my main aim this week was to come and thank the people here for their support and show them that I care.”

“Like gold”

“For me, this is like winning a gold,” insisted Vogel. “Lucerne is my home town and to row here and get a bronze medal, it’s just the best.”

In what looks like going down as a transitional year for Swiss rowing, Caroline Lüthi and Bernadette Wicki did well to reach the A-final in the double sculls, although the two women were to finish the final itself comfortably last.

The young pairing of Lea Fluri and Jane Bogorad also gave hope for the future with the two 22-year-olds taking a commendable third place in the B-final of the double sculls.

More disappointing was the performance of Nicolas Lätt and Atlanta gold medallist Markus Gier who came to Lucerne as World Cup holders in the lightweight double sculls but ended the championships in 11th place overall.

by Mark Ledsom

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR