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First ‘Swiss podium’ at Olympics since 1936

Jolanda Neff hugs teammates Sina Frei (8) who won silver and Linda Indergand (19) who won bronze at the finish line of the women's cross-country mountain bike competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Jolanda Neff has led a historic Swiss clean sweep of medals in the Olympic women’s mountain bike event with a masterful solo ride on a slippery circuit in Japan.

This content was published on July 27, 2021 - 12:06
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Neff, a former world champion, grabbed a Swiss flag as she crossed the line to land Switzerland its first gold medal of the Games on Tuesday. “It feels like a dream and I hope I don’t wake up anytime soon,” said Neff, who suffered a ruptured spleen in 2019 and broke her hand six weeks ago.

Sina Frei crossed in second place and Linda Indergand completed the Swiss dominance as she took bronze.

The last time one nation took gold, silver and bronze in an Olympic cycling event was in 1904, when the Americans swept a now-defunct track event.

From left: Sina Frei, Jolanda Neff and Linda Indergand celebrate during the medal ceremony on Tuesday Keystone / Christopher Jue

It is the first time three Swiss women have ever stood on an Olympic podium together. The last time three Swiss men achieved the feat was in Berlin, 85 years ago. Artistic gymnast Georges Miez (the most successful Swiss Olympian ever with four gold medals, three silver and one bronze) was flanked by Josef Walter (silver) and Eugen Mack (bronze).

Georges Miez in action at the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles. Miez is Switzerland's most successful Olympian. Keystone / Str

Twelve years earlier, in 1924, it was also gymnasts – Josef Wilhelm, Jean Gutweniger and Antoine Rebetez – who gave Switzerland a triple victory on the pommel horse.

The closest comparison to the mountain bikers’ success in the post-War era is the quadruple triumph of the Swiss downhill skiers at the 1987 World Ski Championships in Crans-Montana. Peter Müller led the way ahead of Pirmin Zurbriggen, Karl Alpiger and Franz Heinzer. At the Olympic Games, however, even Swiss skiers have failed to fill a podium.

Even getting more than one medal in the same competition is rare for Switzerland. The last time two Swiss women stood on the podium at the Summer Games was in 2000: Brigitte McMahon (gold – she later tested positive for EPO and retired) and Magali Messmer (bronze) in the women’s triathlon. For the men it was 1952, again in gymnastics.

It is also just the ninth time in Olympic history that a nation has cleaned up in a women’s event. The previous one, two and three was achieved by the US in 2016 in the 100m hurdles.

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