The coach of Switzerland's national hockey team, Ralph Krueger, tells swissinfo he will benefit from previous Olympic experience at the Turin Games.This content was published on February 3, 2006 - 17:08
Four years ago, his side took a beating in Salt Lake City after riding into town with high hopes of causing a few upsets among the hockey fraternity.
Krueger has been coaching the Swiss team since 1997. While his best result is a fourth place at the world championships the year he took over, Switzerland is now a regular fixture among the world's best hockey nations.
At the last Olympics, the Swiss had hoped to finish within the top eight, and perhaps even challenge for a medal. But two matches against underdogs France and Ukraine were enough to put paid to those dreams.
swissinfo: Ralph Krueger, what did you learn from the Salt Lake City debacle?
Ralph Krueger: I realised how difficult it is at such a huge event to concentrate on hockey and not be distracted. In Utah, our first game against France came less than 15 hours after we took part in the opening ceremony.
This time, we will cope better with the excitement and the pressure generated by the Games. Our American experience will help us – the 15 players who were there and myself – do better at Turin.
swissinfo: What does taking part in the Olympics mean to you?
R.K.: There is a lot of pressure on me because of my job. But I try not to let that spoil my enjoyment at being at the Games.
When I was a child, I dreamt of taking part in the Olympics, and in Turin it will be the second time. I think it's really the greatest event in which an athlete can take part and it's something to be proud of. It's not just about sport or hockey. It has a global dimension.
swissinfo: You are half German and half Canadian and you coach Switzerland. Isn't that a strange mix?
R.K.: Of course. I have strong emotional ties to both those countries. But when you live in another – Switzerland in this case – for over nine years, you call it home.
You can't change the colour of your passport, but you can change the colour of the flag you wear on your heart. And it's the Swiss flag that occupies that space now.
I am proud of leading Switzerland, even if I still feel something for Germany and Canada, the two countries where I grew up.
swissinfo: What is your goal – and that of the Swiss team – at the Turin Games?
R.K.: Our goal has been clear from the start: take part in the quarterfinals and finish among the best eight nations in the tournament. We failed four years ago and we will do everything to succeed this time around.
If we do, it will be a different tournament for us, with tougher opposition, but where anything will be possible.
swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froidevaux
Married with two children, 46-year-old Ralph Krueger has German and Canadian passports.
He played 45 games for Germany.
He has lived in Switzerland (Davos) since he took over as national coach in 1997.
His contract runs until 2009.
The Swiss hockey team qualified for the Turin Games by winning a pre-Olympic tournament in Kloten last February.
To get to Italy, Switzerland had to beat Japan, Norway and Denmark along the way.
In Turin, the Swiss will play their qualifying round against Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Italy.
The first four teams will go into the quarterfinals.
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