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Swiss honour their world champions

Top of their game: Simone Niggli-Luder and Thomas Lüthi

(Keystone)

World champions Thomas Lüthi and Simone Niggli-Luder have crowned a dream year by being named athletes of the year at the Swiss sports awards.

The motorcyclist and orienteering specialist were joined on the podium by the Swiss national football team and their trainer, Köbi Kuhn.

All the winners voted for by the Swiss public – who cannot choose a best athlete but have to pick a best male athlete and a best female athlete – came from the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Roger Federer, the dominant tennis player of his era, missed out on a hat-trick at the Credit Suisse Sports Awards.

Federer set a litany of records in 2005, including becoming the first player to win Grand Slam events (Wimbledon and the US Open) the year after having won three Grand Slam events in the same year.

But despite being considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time, Federer only attracted 30.3 per cent of the Swiss public's votes. Thomas Lüthi pulled in 46 per cent.

Golden couple

Lüthi, who won the newcomer of the year award in 2003, became world champion in the 125cc category in November in only his third season as a professional.

The 19-year-old rapidly asserted himself as the man to beat and barring more accidents like the one in September, in which he bounced down the track and dislocated a shoulder, a successful future looks assured.

Simone Niggli-Luder, 27, who won the same award in 2003, picked up her seventh world title in August at the world orienteering championships in Aichi, Japan.

Orienteering, a mix of cross-country running and map-reading, is popular in Switzerland and Niggli-Luder, who when not running around a forest works as a biologist, also helped the Swiss women's team to gold.

Team effort

The team of the year and trainer of the year awards went to the Swiss national football team and their coach Jakob "Köbi" Kuhn.

Kuhn took the helm in 2001 and has presided over a successful period in the national team's history.

By leading Switzerland to the Euro 2004 finals, Kuhn won a place in the hearts of Swiss football fans.

Then Switzerland claimed a place at the 2006 tournament in Germany after a heart-stopping play-off against Turkey in November.

Despite falling 4-2 in their second leg in Istanbul, they advanced by virtue of their 2-0 victory in Bern four days earlier.

The tournament in Germany will be the first World Cup appearance since 1994 for the Swiss, who are due to host the 2008 European Championship jointly with neighbouring Austria.

FC Thun narrowly missed out on the team award. The "football minnows", who eight years ago were languishing in the Swiss third division, qualified for the final stages of the Champions League.

But not least

Other awards went to Edith Hunkeler, who won the disabled athlete award for the fourth time.

Hunkeler, 33, has been in a wheelchair since a car crash 11 years ago but has amassed medals of all colours at all track distances.

Jonas Hiller, the 23-year-old goaltender for Swiss ice hockey team Davos, was named newcomer of the year.

A lifetime achievement award went to Peter Sauber, founder and team principle of the Sauber Formula One team.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Sportsman of the year: Thomas Lüthi (motorcycling)
Sportswoman: Simone Niggli-Luder (orienteering)
Team: national football team
Newcomer: Jonas Hiller (ice hockey)
Trainer: Köbi Kuhn (national football team)
Disabled: Edith Hunkeler (athletics)
Special award: Peter Sauber (Formula One)

end of infobox


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