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Swiss pay tribute to marathon star

Rochat-Moser was one of Switzerland's most popular athletes Keystone Archive

Friends and colleagues of Franziska Rochat-Moser have been paying tribute to the former marathon star, who died on Thursday at the age of 35.

This content was published on March 8, 2002 - 12:06

Rochat-Moser succumbed to injuries which she sustained on Wednesday after being caught in an avalanche near the Swiss skiing resort of Les Diablerets.

Sports minister Samuel Schmid said that Rochat-Moser had been "the epitome of woman power - someone who stood out both in her sport and her career, a strong and winning personality who managed to hold on to her modesty."

Schmid said that Rochat-Moser had written Swiss sporting history when she celebrated her most famous triumph at the prestigious New York marathon in 1997. The minister added that the runner's work with young athletes had also shown the way for the next generation.

A great athlete

"She was a great athlete who always did more than she had to," former trainer Richard Umberg told swissinfo on Friday. "For example, if I gave her a 100-mile training programme she would go and do 180 miles."

"She wanted to be the best not only in Switzerland, but also in the world," added Umberg.

Rochat-Moser's 1997 win in what is arguably the world's most important marathon went some way to realising that aim. But a series of injury problems forced the Swiss runner to call an early end to her athletic career in July last year.

"Her win in New York made her an overnight hero here in Switzerland," recalled Umberg, "but as her coach I wasn't so surprised because she had been doing so well in training before the run.

"When she stopped running competitively, she made the switch from athlete to organiser seamlessly. She was set to become the future president of the national committee for women's runs, and was also working for the Swiss Olympic association and for the national sports charity."

Minute's silence

Rochat-Moser's contribution to women's athletics in particular was highlighted on Friday during a meeting in the Swiss parliament to celebrate international women's day.

Around 200 women from the worlds of politics, business, culture and sport held a minute's silence in the parliament chamber to honour the popular athlete.

The Swiss athletics association replaced the front page of its website with a message of condolence to Rochat-Moser's friends and family.

The association expressed its sorrow on hearing of the death of "a wonderful athlete and great sporting ambassador."

by Mark Ledsom with agencies

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