Swiss swimmer Flavia Rigamonti will once again represent her country's best medal hopes at this week's world short course championships in Moscow.
The 21-year-old student is one of 19 Swiss swimmers set to compete in the Russian capital. Following a convincing warm-up at the North American University Championships, where she won two races, Rigamonti appears to be in good shape for a Moscow medal.
"Anything other than a medal would be disappointing for Rigamonti herself," agreed Swiss swimming chief Pierre-André Weber before the squad's departure.
The young star from canton Ticino, who is currently studying at the Southern Methodist University in Texas, already has two bronze medals from previous world short course championships and is also the reigning European short course champion in her specialist 800 metre freestyle discipline.
Run of success
If she can make a podium place in Moscow, Rigamonti will be able to celebrate her ninth major medal win in seven years, furthering a run of success that began with a silver medal at the first ever European short course championships in 1996 - when Rigamonti was just 15 years old.
As far as the ambitions of the rest of the squad go, Weber is hoping to see the Swiss build on their impressive performances at last year's European short course championships in Antwerp. Although Rigamonti again stole the Swiss headlines in the Belgian city with her gold medal win over 800 metres, the squad as a whole came away with nine further final places and 15 new national records.
"I definitely want to see us make further strides in Moscow," said Weber. "But I'm not making any predictions about how many medals we might win - that would be too speculative."
Among those bidding for a place in the finals will be Dominique Diezi, Chantal Strasser, Nicole Zahnd, Remo Lütolf, Karel Novy and Yves Platel. Lütolf is the only member of the squad other than Rigamonti to have already won a medal at the short course world championships - having won bronze in the 50 metre breast stroke at the 1999 Hong Kong event.
The hopes of the Swiss swimmers in Moscow could rise sharply as a result of some high-profile withdrawals among their international rivals.
Australian superstar Ian Thorpe is staying away to concentrate on his preparations for July's Commonwealth Games, while his compatriot Michael Klim is out injured.
Holland's multiple Olympic champions Inge de Bruijn and Pieter van den Hoogenband have also decided to skip the Moscow event while many of Germany's top swimmers are choosing to focus on this summer's European Championships in Berlin.
swissinfo with agencies