Damian’s Websurf on Swiss Sports
As you might know, demonstration sports were no longer part of the Olympic games after 1992. However, special tournaments for non-olympic sports can be organised and at the London Summer Olympics 2012 (http://www.london2012.com) Great Britain attempted to run Twenty20 cricket and netball — unfortunately, neither campaign was successful. And that got me thinking, what would our home country display as it’s show sport? There is certainly no shortage of sports that you can only find in Switzerland and I thought I should dedicate this edition of my column to the weird and wonderful world of Swiss sports.
In this sport two teams play against each other, however similar to the English Cricket while one team is fully assembled on the playing field, the batting team is represented by only one player. This player has what can best be described as a whip with at hard piece of wood at the end which he accelerates enormously by spinning around his own axis. Once fast enough, he lets the whip slide up a metal ramp at the end of which sits the Hornuss, a round puck that, as soon as it is struck, will buzz towards the opposing team at up to 300 km/h. The playing field starts 100m after the ramp and is 200m long. The other team is armed with helmets and “Schindel”, a device which can only be described as an oversized pizza shovel. With this they try to stop the approaching puck midair by trowing their wooden board accurately above their heads.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornussen) mentions that the earliest record of this indigenous Swiss sport is from 1625 when two men were fined for playing Hornussen on a Sunday. Nowadays of course there is a national organisation called the Eidgenoessischer Hornusser Verband (http://www.ehv.ch/cms/) which regulates the game and organises Swiss Championships. Hornussen is played by a few dedicated expatriates in South Africa and the USA where it is also known as Swiss Golf.
Olympic wrestling is what I think comes closest to describe Schwingen (http://www.esv.ch//news.php) in a simple way, however, typically Swiss, we do things slightly different to everyone else. The match takes place in an outdoor ring which is covered with sawdust. The wrestlers wear short pants and a belt on top of their clothing which are made out of jute and are extremely sturdy. This is where the opponents grab onto in order to throw each other onto the back. The winner is the first to pin his opponents shoulders to the ground while still holding on to the pants with at least one hand.
Schwingen is extremely popular and important in Switzerland (http://schwingen.ch) and together with Hornussen and Steinstossen are considered the National Sport. This also means that as a winner of the Eidgenoessische (Switzerland’s biggest national tournament) you are declard the Schwingerkoenig (the king of the Wrestlers http://www.jabderhalden.ch/, a title that stays with you for live, you also win a cow and are guest of honour at every national tournament henceforth.
Outside of Switzerland, Schwingen is only practiced regularly in the San Joaquin Valley in the USA (http://www.riponswissclub.com/index_files/Page320.htm)
Literally translated in means to push a stone (or better stone put) and in our home country this “original” stone ways in at exactly 83.5 kg and is known as the Unspunnenstein (http://www.steinstossen.ch). The practice of throwing stones either as training for distance or aim is generally seen as the oldest sport in the world. Practiced among the alpine population since prehistoric times, it’s first record in Switzerland is from Basel where it was part of a festival in the 13th century. Nowadays the stones used at festivals are of varying sizes and weigh about 50kg. However, once every 12 years at the Unsprunnenfest (http://www.interlaken.ch/de/unspunnenfest-schweizerisches-trachten-und-alphirtenfest.html) in Interlaken the Unspunnenstein is used and the furthest it has been thrown is 3.89 meters.
Many areas of Switzerland have their own traditional sports events such as the cow fighting in the canton of Valais or the Harassenlauf, which takes part annually in the state of Baselland. If you know of any others why don’t you leave a comment on our homepage www.swissclubvic.com or on our facebook site http://www.facebook.com/Swissclubvic
Damian Schaller is a regular contributor to the Edelsweiss magazine, which is published in Australia by the Swiss Club of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.