Swiss athletics continues to assert itself within the world elite. With seven finalist places at the Eugene Worlds and, above all, a ninth medal thanks to Simon Ehammer (bronze at length), he has the best record in his history.
The medal table does not say everything. In any case, Swiss athletics has never celebrated more than one podium in the same edition. But its 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 trigger
After the coronation of André Bucher in the 800m in 2001, Swiss Athletics did not however win the slightest top 8 in five of the six following editions (2003, 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013), the Worlds in Osaka 2007 having made an exception with the bronze of Viktor Röthlin in the marathon and the 8th place of Alexander Martinez in the triple jump.
But everything has changed since the Zurich 2014 project saw the light of day, notably with the creation of the Kids Cup – in which a certain Mujinga Kambundji had distinguished herself – and the appearance of the Swiss Starters concept. The continental title won by Kariem Hussein in the 400m hurdles in 2014 at Letzigrund acted as a trigger.
The Thurgovian then showed that anything was possible, even for a Swiss athlete. And the talents quickly emerged in his wake, from Noemi Zbären (6th in the 100m hurdles at the 2015 Worlds) to Lea Sprunger (4th in the 400m hurdles at the 2019 Worlds) passing of course by Mujinga Kambundji, bronze in the 200m at Doha in 2019.
Sprinters as leaders
Swiss athletics has obtained 14 finalist places (top 8) in the last four world championships, half of them in Eugene. But it owes it above all to its women’s sprint, which also benefits from the Zurich 2014 effect: relaunched in 2010 by Laurent Meuwly, the 4×100 m relay is at the heart of the boom in Swiss athletics.
In the wake of their leader Mujinga Kambundji, finalist of the last five individual sprint events contested on the intercontinental scene, the sprinters have made their way into a world elite that seemed unapproachable for such a small country. The Swiss women’s 4×100 m has thus taken part in the last four finals in the intercontinental championships.
But the balance remains fragile for lack of a sufficiently deep reservoir, even if the next generation is pointing the tip of its nose with Natacha Kouni, Melissa Gutschmidt or Léonie Pointet. We saw it in Eugene, where the 5th in the 100m of the 2021 Olympics Ajla Del Ponte was not in good enough shape to get in tune with Mujinga Kambundji.
A new record in Munich?
The 4x100m relay runners, for whom the quality of the transmission of the baton must also become a priority again, cannot be satisfied with the 7th place obtained in these 2022 Worlds. Ambitious, they will certainly be eager for revenge in three weeks at the championships. Munich Europe (August 15-21).
And on the continental stage, they will have to have the podium as their objective. The only European with Dina Asher-Smith to have run the two individual finals (100 and 200m) in Eugene, Mujinga Kambundji wants to erase the triple disappointment of the 2018 Europeans in Munich (4th in 100, 200 and in the 4x100m relay).
Ajla Del Ponte, if she finds her best level by then, also has the means to tickle the podium in the 100m. Disappointed by the performance (8m16) which allowed him to adorn himself with bronze at the length in Eugene, Simon Ehammer will be one of the men to beat in the decathlon of these Europeans.
A bright future
The Amsterdam 2016 record (5 Swiss medals) should 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 in the 100m hurdles in Eugene, Ditaji Kambundji is only 20 years old. And the nugget from Friborg Audrey Werro (18) is already doing wonders over 800 m.
Even the 4×100 m is still “young”. Mujinga Kambundji celebrated her 30th birthday this year, and she set her best times in both the 100m and 200m in 2022. Ajla Del Ponte, who won the European indoor 60m title before running the 100m in 10 ’90 in 2021, she is only 26 years old. The longevity of Queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (35 years) still allows them all hope.
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