An exciting Olympic Season 2016 has ended – well, almost. It has been particularly successful for Swiss Athletics. Five medals at the European Championships in Amsterdam. Time to look back. Who is “the best” Swiss athlete? Which discipline is the strongest? Who is the most under-rated athlete?
In this blog, I’ll take a look at the IAAF 2016 World Ranking. By using this ranking, I am not saying rank X in discipline A is worth more than rank Y in discipline B. Rather, I use the world ranking to define an order that deviates from the usual “first the Men’s sprint / last the Women’s heptathlon” lists.
Rank 8: Nicole Büchler.
The first Swiss athlete on my list is Nicole Büchler with a season best of 4.78m in the pole vault. She could overcome her former inconsistencies after she built a very successful team around her coach and husband Mitch Greeley. Sadly, a hamstring injury stopped her shortly before the Europeans. She did the right thing: she disappeared immediately and went to her favorite place in Ticino. With a lack of training, but with a fresh mind, she re-appeared at the Olympics and took a very remarkable 6th place!
Rank 13: Lea Sprunger.
Number two on my list is Lea Sprunger. Two years ago, Lea switched from the 200m distance to 400m Hurdles, but her 13th rank in the world was over 200m! In the final of the Swiss championships at Geneva, she clocked 22.38 secs. A true world class performance in a fun competition only one week after her bronze medal at the Europeans over 400mH. The medal already indicates that Lea’s 400m hurdles rank is only marginally lower. With 54.92 secs she is number 19 in the world. Will 2017 bring a further improvement?
Rank 14: Selina Büchel.
Number three among the Swiss athletes is 800m runner Selina Büchel. She ran her season best late in the season: 1:58:77 at the Athletissima. This is rank 14 in the world. Selina might be viewed as the tragic figure of the season. 4th place at the Europeans, and a closely missed final qualification at the Olympics.
Rank 19: Kariem Hussein.
Kariem Hussein had two goals for 2016. Defending his Euro title, and reaching the final at the Olympics. By the end of the season it was bronze in Amsterdam and a missed final. An injury made it impossible to achieve more. Nevertheless, he reached 48.87secs in Amsterdam. Given the difficulties, he didn’t lose Gold, he won bronze.
Rank 27: Angelica Moser.
18 years old and a PB of 4.57m in the pole vault! Angelica is currently the most visible of the many youngsters that make Swiss Athletics’ officials smile about the future. Angelica seems to be there when it matters most. She started into the season with a long streak of jumps between 4.40 and 4.45m, but at her self-declared season highlight, the Junior World Championships, she delivered a new PB (4.55m) and took the Gold medal.
Rank 32: Fabienne Schlumpf.
Most of the attention during the season was on others, but Fabienne was there when it mattered most. 9:30.54 at Rio meant not only a new Swiss record, but also the qualification for the Olympic final. Unfortunately she fell in the final and finished on rank 18. Apart from the Olympics, Fabienne finished 5th at the Europeans and celebrated a victory at Lucerne. Regarding media attention, she might have been the most under-rated world class athlete of Switzerland.
Rank 33: Benjamin Gföhler
UPDATE: Of course, I knew that Benjamin was missing on my list. In 2016 he eventually broke the 8m barrier. However, his 8.13m jump became victim of a bug on the IAAF site. Now that it has been fixed, it’s visible to the world that he’s number 33! After this terrific performance, Benjamin’s obvious aim for the next season will be consistency. Just suppose he’d be able to repeat this jump on the day of an international championship… Hell, what a hype would this trigger…
Rank 40: Mujinga Kambundji.
Mujinga’s season began with a bang. On a Facebook post she declared that she would not run in the 4×100 this year. So all eyes were on her individual performance. The season did not start as desired. During this period, her season best of 11.14 secs appeared like an outlier. Only late in the season Mujinga stabilized her form. Then she proved all sceptics wrong. Again, she was in her best shape, when it matters most. Bronze at the Europeans and a strong semifinal performance at the Olympics. Moreover, she ran a season best 200m in Rio (22.78secs; rank 52 in the world).
Rank 40 Clélia Rard-Reuse.
2016 would be Clélia Rard-Reuse’s last season. Eventually fully recovered from a broken leg (2014), the 100m hurdler started strong into the season and qualified for the Europeans. She took the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics at one of the few rain-free races in Thun where she ran 12.87 secs. She took a strong fourth place at the Europeans and showed a very strong performance at Rio where she finished 16th in the semifinal. A touching farewell at her home meeting, the Athletissima, closed her season and her career.
Rank 42: Ellen Sprunger.
After two major surgeries in 2015, Ellen’s aim for 2016 was clear. A new PB and the Olympic Standard in the heptathlon. At Götzis she started strongly into the competition. Brilliant over the hurdles and the 200m, solid in the high jump and the shot put. However, on day two her operated elbow was not ready for the javelin. 6’024 points weren’t enough. Another attempt in Ratingen failed too. After long discussions, Coach Meuwly accepted his strongest remaining sprinter for the 4x100m relay and she could participate at her second Olympics. Moreover, she ran a strong 200m race at the Swiss Nationals. Her 22.89 meant another rank 76 in the world. Finally some good news. Ellen will continue her career in 2017. “Ratingen shouldn’t be the end of my heptathlon career”, she told me.
Rank 47: Michelle Zeltner
After an accident the doctors told Michelle that she would be unable to ever do sports again. In 2016 she not only qualified for the Europeans, but also set up a new PB, the first time over the “magic” 6000 pts barrier.
Rank 50: Jonas Fringeli.
Jonas Fringeli established himself as the best decathlete in Switzerland. 7862 point in Götzis mean exactly rank 50 in the world. The competition in Götzis was very solid, without any weaknesses. Jonas is definitely on the watch list for 2017.
Other Swiss athletes in the World Ranking
#58: Maja Neuenschwander (Marathon) 2:27:36
#65: Dominik Alberto (Pole Vault) 5.55
#73: Salome Lang (High Jump) 1.86
#80: Petra Fontanive (400mH) 56.48
#80: Loïc Gasch (High Jump) 2.23
#111: Valérie Reggel (Heptathlon) 5667 pts
#113: Nicole Zihlmann (Hammer Throw) 64.83
#123 Irene Pusterla (Long Jump) 6.42
#145 Alain-Hervé Mfomkpa (400mH) 50.42
#146 Tobias Furer (110mH) 13.76
#147 Alex Wilson (200m) 20.57
#157: Martina Strähl (1/2 Marathon) 1:11.50
#157 Nadja-Marie Pasternack (Javelin) 53.52
#162 Géraldine Ruckstuhl (Javelin) 53.38
#164 Jan Hochstrasser (1500m) 3:39.71
#167 Robine Schürmann (400mH) 57.94
#201 Sara Atcho (200m) 23.30