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Sport stars run up mixed year

Laurels, hardy: Kilian Wenger is the Schwinger King for 2010 Keystone

In 2010, Swiss athletes – and fans – laughed, cried and celebrated varying degrees of success. looks back at 12 months of sporting thrills and spills.

The year started – as it usually does – with Roger Federer winning the Australian Open.

His straight-sets defeat of Andy Murray wasn’t as memorable as last year’s five-set final against Rafael Nadal (which Federer lost), but it extended his record to 16 grand slam titles – four of them down under.

“I can cry like Roger – it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” said an emotional Murray.

Federer, who turns 30 in August, finished the year in style, defeating Nadal to win the ATP World Tour Finals. But the rest of 2010 was, by his stellar standards, disappointing.

He lost in the quarterfinals at the French Open and then Wimbledon – ending his six-year streak of consecutive grand slam semifinals – and lost the world number one ranking to Nadal, leaving him one week shy of Pete Sampras’s record 286 weeks. At the US Open, Federer lost in the semis to Novak Djokovic in five sets despite holding two match points.

The disappointments continued in August, when a Federerless Switzerland were relegated from the Davis Cup World Group after a 5-0 thrashing by mighty Kazakhstan.

Gold comfort

In February all eyes turned to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Could the Swiss hit their target of ten to 12 medals? Not quite, although six of their nine medals were gold.

Ski jumper Simon Ammann got the snowball rolling with a brace of golds, adding them to his two from Salt lake City in 2002. For this, he was named Swiss Sportsman of the Year, beating Kilian Wenger (pictured) into second and Federer into third.

Wenger, a 20-year-old apprentice butcher, won the Schwingen alpine wrestling competition, which takes place every three years. Winners gain hero status – and a young bull.

Back in Canada, gold also went to Didier Défago in the downhill, Dario Cologna in the men’s 15km cross country, Mike Schmid in the first Olympic ski cross event and Carlo Janka in the giant slalom.

In March Janka became the first Swiss since Paul Accola in 1992 to win the prestigious Grand Crystal Globe, which is awarded at the end of the season to the best skier in all five of the alpine disciplines taken together.

The three remaining Swiss medals – all bronze – went to Silvan Zurbriggen in the super combined, the Swiss men’s curling team and Olivia Nobs – saving Swiss women’s blushes – in the snowboard cross.

Durban myth

In June Switzerland joined 31 other teams – and thousands of vuvuzelas – on the South African veld for the football World Cup.

Despite an astonishing start – their 1-0 victory against eventual winners Spain was quickly hailed as the “Miracle of Durban” – they soon remembered who they were and lost 1-0 to Chile and ended their campaign with an anaemic goalless draw against Honduras.

“We’re out! And we didn’t deserve anything better,” wailed tabloid Blick on its front page.

Attention now turns to Euro 2012 – and the Swiss have their work cut out. After three of eight qualification matches they lag behind Montenegro and England in a five-team group. Only the top two travel to Poland and Ukraine.

Switzerland’s next game is against Bulgaria on March 26, but unless they get their act together and Montenegro slip up, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s boys will be watching the tournament on television.

In the Champions League, European football’s most prestigious club tournament, Basel finished third in their qualifying group, missing out on a place in the last 16.

Yellow cards

Football was also responsible for a fair amount of controversy, in a year not lacking in it.

“I’ll say it clearly: there is no systematic corruption at Fifa,” said Sepp Blatter, the Swiss president of world football’s governing body, after Fifa’s ethics court suspended two of his executive committee colleagues from taking part in World Cup host votes following British newspaper allegations of bribe-taking and vote-rigging.

Also in the headlines for the wrong reasons was Swiss cyclist Thomas Frei, who in April tested positive for the endurance-boosting drug EPO. He admitted doping and was kicked out of his Swiss-American pro-cycling team BMC.

In June, two-time Olympic cycling champion Fabian Cancellara found himself having to deny using a hidden auxiliary motor to win the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix classic.

February also saw the America’s Cup – fought between Swiss two-time winner Alinghi and BMW Oracle – underwhelm everybody off the coast of Valencia.

After two years of legal wrangling, Oracle’s monster trimaran blew Alinghi’s catamaran out of the water. Alinghi later said it was pulling out of the next event to compete in the Extreme Sailing Series.

Another Swiss hoping for better fortune in 2011 will be Formula One racing driver Sébastien Buemi. Despite having a confirmed seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso, Buemi might have an anxious Christmas after team principal Franz Tost recently said the Swiss “struggled a bit” towards the end of the year and added that “you never know what will happen in F1”.

Good news babble

But let’s end the year on a positive note. On August 1 – Swiss National Day – marathon runner Viktor Röthlin won gold at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona, becoming the fourth Swiss European champion overall and the first since shot putter Werner Günthör in 1986.

Röthlin’s achievement is all the more impressive when you consider that in 2009 he developed a thrombosis on an aeroplane which led to a pulmonary embolism.

In October, National Basketball Association (NBA) star Thabo Sefolosha became the second Swiss, after Roger Federer, to feature on the cover of prestigious US magazine Sports Illustrated.

And on December 12, Martina Hingis married French showjumper Thibault Hutin in Paris. In 1997 Hingis, now 30, became the youngest ever tennis world number one.

Sportsman of the Year: Simon Ammann (ski jumping) – beat Kilian Wenger (Swiss wrestling), Roger Federer (tennis).

Sportswoman of the Year: Ariella Kaeslin (gymnastics) – beat Simone Niggli (orienteering), Nicola Spirig (triathlon).

Team of the Year: U17 footballers – beat FC Basel, national ice hockey squad.

Newcomer of the Year: Mike Schmid (ski cross) – beat Nino Niederreiter (ice hockey), Lisa Urech (athletics).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR