Bucher chases European title
Swiss 800 metres running star Andre Bucher is widely expected to add the European Indoor title to his list of honours this weekend.
Already a strong favourite for victory at the Vienna championships, the reigning world champion has seen his chances further increased by a number of high-profile withdrawals.
Olympic champion Nils Schumann of Germany has had to pull out of the event after breaking his arm. A suspected injury has also led Russia's defending indoor champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy to stay away, while world record holder Wilson Kipketer of Denmark has withdrawn due to lack of form.
The Swiss star's strongest opposition is now likely to come from Poland's Pawel Cziapewski, who finished third at last year's world championships in Edmonton.
In good shape
Bucher has already shown himself to be in good shape this year, with three wins from his three indoor races in Ghent, Birmingham and Liévin.
Although generally renowned for making early breaks, the Lucerne runner has been varying his tactics this season and in Birmingham ran to victory after lying in third place with just 200 metres to go.
"I don't have to shy away from the sprinters anymore," said a confident Bucher after undergoing intensive training sessions to improve on his finishing speed.
In Liévin, Bucher demonstrated his progress by setting a new Swiss record of 1'45"08.
"Given his current form, we are clearly expecting a win in Vienna," said Swiss athletics association director Peter Schläpfer.
If Bucher can succeed in Sunday's final, he will end the association's 15-year-wait for a gold medal at the European Indoor championships.
Final for Bitzi
A good deal less will be expected of Switzerland's other athletes in Vienna, although the association has set Ivan Bitzi a target of reaching the final in the 60-metre hurdles.
Zurich high jumper Martin Stauffer will probably have to come close to his personal best of 2,27 metres if he is to make the final, while Martina Feusi (60m), Daniel Dubois (60m) and Raphaël Monachon (60-metre hurdles), will all do well to reach the semi-finals.
Among the expected highlights in Vienna will be Russian athlete Svetlana Feofanova's attempt to break the indoor pole vault world record for the fifth time in three weeks. Austrian 800 metres runner Stephanie Graf will also be bidding to set a new world record in front of her home fans.
Even before the championships get underway, the Vienna organisers are able to point to a few records of their own. As well as boasting more athletes than ever before, this year's Indoor event includes competitors from a record 49 countries.
Gibraltar, Liechtenstein and Monaco are the only member associations not fielding athletes this weekend.
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