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Lucerne welcomes top athletes

Triple world champion Allen Johnson will be among the big names in Lucerne

(Keystone Archive)

Four reigning world champions and six of the year's best performers are set to compete in a star-studded Lucerne athletics meeting on Wednesday.

Often eclipsed by Zurich's Weltklasse meeting and the Lausanne Athletissima event, Switzerland's third-biggest athletics evening has nevertheless managed to attract some impressive names.

This year's edition appears to have gained some unexpected, and unintentional support, from the organisers of the rival Grand Prix meeting in Nice which was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was cancelled over financial difficulties.

Helped

"The Nice cancellation has certainly helped us," admits Lucerne organiser Max Plüss. "In the last few days we have had lots of inquiries from athletes and managers who now want to come to Lucerne."

Reigning women's 100 metres champion Zhanna Pintusevich-Block needed no such last-minute change of plans, however. A regular in Lucerne, the 29-year-old Ukrainian told the meeting's official website that she actually appreciates the low-key nature of the Swiss event.

"I have raced (in Lucerne) almost every year since 1993 and hope to run there every year until the end of my career," Pintusevich-Block said. "Why? Because the meeting promoters have always been very nice and fair to me. Not just during my better years but during my not so good ones as well.

"I really love to support the smaller meetings," the world champion added, "as they give younger up and coming athletes a chance to compete and develop into future Champions. It is sad that during my career I have seen many of these meetings disappear."

Fredericks on comeback trail

Also among the stars set to compete in the central Swiss city will be Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks who currently holds this year's best time over 100 metres (9.94 seconds). After suffering from knee and achilles tendon problems for the last two seasons, the 33-year-old former 200 metres world champion is now hoping to stretch his comeback as far as the 2004 Summer Olympics.

American triple world champion and 1996 Olympic gold medallist Allen Johnson will contest the Lucerne 110-metre hurdles while fellow 2001 world champions Avard Moncur and Dmitri Markov are set to compete in the 400 metres and pole vault respectively.

No Bucher

Although Switzerland's own 800 metres world champion, Andre Bucher, is still recovering from a fractured foot, a number of homegrown favourites will be in action in Lucerne.

Local hurdler Ivan Bitzi will be competing alongside Allen Johnson with his main goal being to make the qualifying limit for August's European championships in Munich.

Anita Brägger (800 metres) and Sabine Fischer (1,500 metres) are also looking to get in shape for Munich with both women returning from recent injury lay-offs.

swissinfo with agencies


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