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Swiss swimmers look to strength in depth

Big in Japan? Novy, Rigamonti, Strasser and Lütolf are among the Swiss hopefuls

(Keystone)

The world swimming championships in Japan head indoors this weekend, following the conclusion of the open water events. With more Swiss competitors taking part than ever before, the national association is setting its sights high.

"We are in Japan with our biggest ever world championship delegation," says Swiss head coach Pierre-André Weber, "and of course we want to confirm our progress over the last few years."

Last year's European Championships have played a particularly strong part in boosting Swiss confidence. The Helsinki tournament saw Switzerland take three medals with Flavia Rigamonti and Chantal Strasser winning gold and silver respectively in the 800 metre crawl, while Remo Lütolf grabbed a bronze in the 50 metre breast stroke.

Olympic finalists

Two months later at the Sydney Olympics, Rigamonti followed up on her success by becoming the first Swiss woman ever to qualify for an Olympic final. The Ticinese teenager (who has since turned 20) then went on to take fourth place, narrowly missing out on the bronze.

Despite his favourite 50 metre event not being classified as an Olympic discipline, Lütolf was also a revelation in Sydney, reaching the final in the 100 metres before eventually finishing eighth.

In Japan, the Swiss association have set their sights on two final places and eight new national records. Rigamonti and Lütolf will again be the biggest hopes, although both may struggle to regain their Olympic form in time for this week's events.

Studies

The two young stars have both had to adapt their training schedules to fit in with their education. Lütolf is currently studying law in Zurich, while Rigamonti has been completing her high school examinations.

"It was very difficult for me to concentrate properly on my sport," Rigamonti admitted after being forced to restrict her time in the pool.

Rigamonti's coach, Christophe Pellandini, has also relocated to Geneva since the Olympics and is now only able to train with her at weekends. A similar move to Frauenfeld by her former training partner, Strasser, may also have effected Rigamonti, whose times this season have been well off the international pace.

A place in the finals should still be in the reach of both Rigamonti and Lütolf, however, particularly with Rigamonti being entered in the 1,500 metre crawl as an "additional" event.

Other Swiss contenders for possible final places include Strasser, the previously inconsistent Karel Novy and medley specialist Yves Platel.

swissinfo with agencies


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