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Swiss spit for championship glory

Cherry stone spitting is an art practised by young and old in Switzerland Keystone Archive

Swiss cherry stone spitters have been doing battle at a weekend tournament in Yverdon hosted by Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02.

This content was published on July 21, 2002 - 14:21

Cherry stone spitting is just one of dozens of sports on offer as part of a six-week long programme of healthy activities designed to turn even the most slothful of exhibition visitors into agile athletes.

Some of the sports included in the programme - such as football, badminton and fencing - may be considered mainstream, while others - including cherry stone spitting and Frisbee golf - are more unconventional.

Swiss king

The undisputed Swiss king of cherry stone spitting, Armin Fuchs, is one of the coordinators of the two-day championship event.

"Everybody gets the same cherries, so you have no chance to prepare your stones," he explains, "so you eat it first, and then spit the stone".

Though not yet a household name in Switzerland, Fuchs made history three months ago when he expectorated his way to an unofficial new world record, spitting a single cherry stone a distance of just over 29 metres at a special warm-up event in Bern.

Fuchs is undeterred by reports that a rival professional spitter from across the Atlantic has since called his world record into dispute, and says he puts his consistently strong performance down to a delicate balance of physical and mental preparation.

Secret of success

"I've been spitting stones for quite a number of years now," Fuchs told swissinfo.

"I go running every day - I'm a great runner - and recently did a 100-kilometre race around the city of Biel, and this gives me the strength to have a lot of air in my lungs."

But Fuchs is the first to admit that training alone does not in itself make you a world-class spitter - luck can also play a significant part.

"I was a bit lucky because I had a fair bit of wind on my back and that is the reason I made such a long distance," he admits.

"I think without wind you can't go over 25 metres, it's just not possible," he adds.

Tips for the top

Fuchs - whose son, Andrew, is the current junior world titleholder in the same discipline - is happy to dispense advice to would-be spitters of the future.

"You have to be fit because you have to blow all the air you have in your lungs to a certain point in your mouth where the stone is placed," he advises, "and then it flies off."

The Swiss champion also suggests the best spit is often achieved through a combination of lung power and the ability to pinpoint the correct trajectory for the stone.

"It's very important you don't blow too much up in the air, because you have to have a certain angle which is also very important," he says.

The best advice to beginners, Fuchs adds, is to "go to the next farmer, steal a few cherries and give it a try".

Laying down the gauntlet

Flushed with his recent success, and confident that the weekend event will be an opportunity to promote the minority sport to a wider audience, Fuchs used his interview with swissinfo to issue a stern challenge to his transatlantic rival: put your cherry where your mouth is.

"I think the Americans should accept what happened here in Switzerland, and if they're not happy, they can just come over here and have a look," Fuchs mutters darkly, before popping a cherry in his mouth, tipping his head back and preparing to line himself up for the next shot.

by Ramsey Zarifeh and Scott Capper

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