Progress is confirmed in the Swiss camp

Swiss athletics continues to assert itself among the world elite. With seven finalist places at the Eugene Worlds and above all a ninth medal thanks to Simon Ehammer (bronze in the end), he has the best record in his history.

Simon Ehammer won the bronze medal in the long jump.

KEYSTONE

The medal table doesn’t say everything. In any case, Swiss athletics has never celebrated more than one podium finish in the same edition. But their average level is perhaps higher than ever, even more than at the end of the 80s with the era of Werner Günthör, Pierre Délèze, Cornelia Bürki, Julie Baumann or Anita Protti.

Zurich 2014 as a trigger

However, following André Bucher’s crowning achievement in the 800m in 2001, Swiss Athletics failed to win even the slightest top 8 in five of the six subsequent editions (2003, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013), the 2007 World Championships in Osaka making an exception with bronze from Viktor Röthlin in the marathon and 8th place by Alexander Martinez in the triple jump.

But everything has changed since the Zurich project saw the light of day in 2014, notably with the creation of the Kids Cup – where a certain Mujinga Kambundji stood out – and the appearance of the Swiss Starters concept. The trigger was Kariem Hussein’s continental title win over 400 m hurdles in Letzigrund in 2014.

The Thurgau then showed that everything is possible for a Swiss athlete. And talent quickly emerged in his wake, from Noemi Zbären (6th in the 100m hurdles at the 2015 World Championships) to Lea Sprunger (4th in the 400m hurdles at the 2019 World Championships), who of course at Mujinga Kambundji passed, bronze in 200m in Doha in 2019.

Sprinters as leaders

Swiss athletics has won 14 finalist places (top 8) at the last four world championships, half of them in Eugene. But she owes that primarily to her women’s sprint, which also benefits from the Zurich 2014 effect: Launched in 2010 by Laurent Meuwly, the 4×100 m relay is at the center of the boom in Swiss athletics.

In the wake of their leader Mujinga Kambundji, finalist of the last five individual sprints held on the intercontinental scene, the sprinters have found their way into a world elite that seemed unattainable for such a small country. The Swiss women over 4×100 m took part in the last four finals of the intercontinental championships.

But the balance remains fragile due to the lack of a sufficiently deep reservoir, even if the next generation with Natacha Kouni, Melissa Gutschmidt or Léonie Pointet is ahead. We saw it in Eugene, where Ajla Del Ponte, fifth in the 100m at the 2021 Olympics, wasn’t in good enough shape to match Mujinga Kambundji.

A new record in Munich?

The 4×100 m relay runners, for whom the quality of the baton transfer must also become a priority again, cannot be satisfied with the 7th place at these World Championships 2022, they are ambitious and will surely return the favor in three weeks at the championships Munich Europe (15-21 Aug).

And on the continental stage, they must aim for the podium. As the only European with Dina Asher-Smith who ran the two individual finals (100 and 200 m) in Eugene, Mujinga Kambundji wants the triple disappointment of the European Championships 2018 in Munich (4th over 100m, 200m and in the 4x100m relay ) rub out.

Ajla Del Ponte, if she finds her best level by then, also has the means to tickle the podium in the 100m. Disappointed with the performance (8m16) that allowed him to take bronze over length at Eugene, Simon Ehammer will be one of the men to beat in these Europeans’ decathlon.

A bright future

The record from Amsterdam 2016 (5 Swiss medals) is likely to fall. And the best may be yet to come. Simon Ehammer is only 22 years old, Annik Kälin (6th in the heptathlon in Eugene) also 22, pole vaulter Angelica Moser 24. Fourth best European over 100 m hurdles in Eugene, Ditaji Kambundji is only 20 years old. And the Friborg nugget Audrey Werro (18) works wonders over 800 m.

The 4x100m is also still “young”. Mujinga Kambundji celebrated her 30th birthday this year and set her personal bests in both the 100m and 200m in 2022. Ajla Del Ponte, who won the European 60m indoor title before running the 100m in 10’90 in 2021, is just 26 years old. Queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s longevity (35 years) still gives them all hope.

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