Schurter finally decorated after long wait, Ryf spurred on by setback
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Schurter finally decorated after long wait, Ryf spurred on by setback

The selection of Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year formed the highlight of the festive and exciting Credit Suisse Sports Awards. Triathlete Daniela Ryf and mountain biker Nino Schurter both beat off stiff competition. It was a first for the latter, whereas the former was repeating her triumph of 2015.

The final decision on this year's Swiss Sportsman of the Year delivered something of a surprise. After nine unsuccessful attempts, Grabünden native and top-class mountain biker Nino Schurter finally got to lift the winner's trophy. "I finally did it, and I'm absolutely thrilled as you might imagine," said the 32-year-old. His seventh World Championship victory at Lenzerheide in Switzerland was a key factor in the decision, as was his sixth overall World Cup victory. But the decision was no doubt also influenced by the emotions, tension, and huge public enthusiasm that surrounded his domestic title challenges.

When the results were announced, it became apparent that Schurter was the clear winner: He garnered a total of 33.99 percent of the vote, which was drawn from a combination of the media, leading sports personalities, and the TV audience. Seven-time Sportsman of the Year Roger Federer came second with 21.39%, while four-time cross-country skiing Olympic champion Dario Cologna was third with 15.73%. Although Schurter received an almost identical voting score to Federer from media participants, he was the clear first choice among both sports practitioners and the public. "Fiercely contested victories are always the best," Schurter observed.

Ryf and "the craziest race"

That sentiment also applies where the women's winner is concerned. Triathlete Daniela Ryf was lifting the trophy for the second time after her previous success in 2015. It was back then that the now 31-year old Solothurn native won the Ironman Hawaii for the first time. Despite repeating the feat two years ago and last year, she was not selected as Sportswoman of the Year on either occasion. The driving factor behind her selection again this year was almost certainly the remarkable story of this year's race in mid-October, in which Ryf had an unpleasant encounter with a jellyfish during the swim.

This resulted in her hardly being able to lift her arms and saw her lose some 10 minutes to her key competitors. She was close to giving up. But she covered the 180-kilometer bike course faster than any woman had previously, and finished off with a superb marathon run. Ryf duly set a new course record, and received global tributes and admiration for her achievement. "This Ironman was a highlight, my craziest race ever," she said. "And it was a real life lesson, as it showed how fine the line is between victory and defeat." It was this feat that led to her being the cover story of last Saturday's issue of "das Magazin", which was given the following title: Ironwoman Daniela Ryf – the world's toughest sportswoman.

Daniela Ryf was keen to stress the value of the award: "This award is one of the very few trophies that has a prominent place in my home."Just like Schurter, Ryf – who went through the entire year unbeaten – was the clear winner in the women's category, seeing off challenges from last year's winner, alpine skier Wendy Holdener, and European 400-meter hurdle champion Lea Sprunger.

This year's ceremony, which had a festive feel and involved a number of cultural highlights, also saw a number of other leading sport practitioners receive awards for their achievements. The national ice hockey side won Team of the Year after winning silver medal at the world Championships, its coach Patrick Fischer was nominated Trainer of the Year, three-time paralympic alpine skiing champion Theo Gmür won Disabled Sports of the year, while cross-country skier Julien Wanders was chosen as Newcomer of the Year.  All worthy winners at the Credit Suisse Sports Awards 2018.