Diamonds made in Switzerland

Mujinga Kambundji

From the world indoor championships (18 to 20 March) to Weltklasse Zürich (7 and 8 September) – Swiss athletes apparently plan to inspire us all again this year. And according to Co-Meeting Directors Andreas Hediger and Christoph Joho, with role models like Mujinga Kambundji, a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of young talent participating in UBS Kids Cup events, and pioneering work on a high performance level, the “Road to Weltklasse” is clear.

Fourth in the world indoor championship medal count
Three medals in three days: 60m world champion Mujinga Kambundji, as well as silver medallist Loïc Gasch (high jump) and Simon Ehammer (heptathlon) made history in Belgrade (SER) last month. Swiss athletes returned home with a record medal haul. In addition, three athletes, including Angelica Moser (4th/pole vault), Andri Oberholzer (5th/heptathlon), and Ditaji Kambundji (8th/60m hurdles), placed in the top eight. Their results took the Swiss team to a historic fourth place in the medal count for the championships which included 129 teams this year.

Positive trend continues
“Fourth in the medal table is, quite literally, a world-class result,” Andreas Hediger commented. To the Weltklasse Zürich Co-Meeting Director, these most recent medals confirm that “the years of commitment of Weltklasse Zürich, Swiss Athletics, and main partner UBS pays off and that the positive trend of recent years continues.”

Epic summer ahead
The Swiss top athletes are all preparing their upcoming outdoor season in various training camps. If they manage to keep up the momentum, fans are in for an epic summer. To start with, there are the national championships in Zurich (Letzigrund Stadium). After that, our stars will travel to the world championships in Eugene (USA), the European championships to be held in Munich (GER), and to the 14 meetings of the global Wanda Diamond League series which will culminate in a two-day final highlight at Weltklasse Zürich on 7 and 8 September.

A larger team of stars than 20 years ago
Switzerland has always produced exceptionally skilled competitors in the world of athletics, including world championship bronze medallists Anita Weyermann (1997) and Marcel Schelbert (1999), for instance, or André Bucher (2001 world champion). But imagining not one but two women taking on the world’s best sprinters in the 100m Olympic final together while also fighting for medals in the 4x100m would have been hard to picture 20 years ago. Just as hard as to imagine watching as many as 14 local athletes compete in the international programme of Weltklasse Zürich, as was the case in 2021. Eight of them had qualified by ways of collecting points instead of using a wild card for their respective Diamond League final events. The scenario underlined both the current level of performance and the athletes’ mindsets.    

Promoting athletics in all kinds of ways
“National stars who capture the hearts of home crowds are essential, even for major international events such as Weltklasse Zürich,” Andreas Hediger explained. Therefore, promoting Switzerland’s athletics movement in “all kinds of ways” is one of the main purposes of Weltklasse Zürich and its support association (VfG/LCZ).

Supporting talents and stars
The organisation’s efforts helped build a significantly higher number of athletes competing at top level following the 2014 European championships in Zurich. The UBS Kids Cup, the largest and most important event series for young talents in the country, has played an important role in the success story. Launched in 2011, the Weltklasse Zürich and Swiss Athletics initiative which is supported by UBS has motivated more than a million children and young adults to start running, jumping and throwing.

Generation UBS Kids Cup
This enormous reservoir of talents represents the basis for the international success of young athletes. In the past year alone, former UBS Kids Cup participants won 12 medals at world and European U-20 and U-23 championships. Pole vaulter Angelica Moser (24) and multi-eventer Simon Ehammer (22), both members of Generation UBS Kids Cup, even won a European title and a world indoor championship silver medal respectively.

Pioneering work at the OYM
Another four “raw diamonds”, all of them European U-23 championships medallists, benefit from the Swiss Diamonds Athletics Program, a cooperation of the Athletikzentrum für Spitzensport OYM and Weltklasse Zürich. “This “innovation cell” in Cham, as well as other initiatives in the area of coaching, will help us get even closer to the top of the athletics world,” Co-Meeting Director Christoph Joho explained, pointing to the fact that things go backwards, if they fail to go forward. “Together with Swiss Athletics and our partners, we will do our utmost to help Swiss athletes fly high again, both at Letzigrund Stadium and in arenas around the world. We will stay true to the Weltklasse Zürich motto: Never stop getting better.”

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