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Swiss finds orienteering path paved with gold

Pain after the gain: Luder catches her breath after taking gold at the world championships

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Simone Luder has won the classical distance title at the world orienteering championships in Tampere, Finland, just two days after her compatriot, Vroni König Salmi, won the 2.2 kilometre sprint title.

The 23-year-old, who hails from Bern, is the first Swiss to take a gold medal and so become world champion in the classical category (9.7 kilometres with 17 checkpoints).

The last Swiss to achieve such a result was Margrit Thommen in 1964, but at that time the championships were staged only on a European level.

"I didn't really know where I stood, but when the spectators began to scream and shout like mad, I knew I had won," Luder said after crossing the finishing line.

"But I was completely exhausted by the time I reached the end," she admitted.

The last 500m of the race proved in the end to be the most decisive, as Luder managed to push forward and cross the finishing line three seconds ahead of her nearest rival, Finland's Marika Mikkola.

Luder's success follows on from another world class Swiss performance on Sunday, when König Salmi defeated Finland's Johanna Asklof in the 2.2 kilometre sprint title by 5.6 seconds.

Luder shared a podium place with König Salmi in the sprint title, when she took third place behind Asklof.

Scandinavians dominated the men's classical distance race, with Norway's Jörgen Rostrup stealing the gold. The best Swiss performance came from Thomas Bührer, who came in eighth.

Swiss national orienteering coach, Niklaus Suter, was upbeat about his team's performance in Finland.

"We never expected such success," he commented, "but of course we knew that we had a very strong women's team."

But Suter was quick to caution against raising too many expectations ahead of the 2003 World Championships which are scheduled to take place in Switzerland.

"Of course we are all delighted with the good results, but we must ensure that public expectations are not raised too high ahead of the 2003 championships."

swissinfo with agencies


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