Schwingen wrestling: The ultimate in Swissness



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Monday 9 September 2013

Last update 15 September 2013 9:14 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Battling to the last with sweat pouring from his brow, the wrestler winced as he lost his footing, the crowd roared and his rival flattened him in the sawdust.
In an Alpine nation that holds its traditions dear, it doesn’t come more Swiss than this, as the cowbells ring and the alphorns echo in a 52,000-seater stadium.
“Schwingen” is an ancestral form of wrestling unique to Switzerland, where hulking athletes in sackcloth shorts fight for crowns of oak leaves and prizes ranging from bulls to power drills.
“It’s like a pure extract of Swissness,” said Markus Walther, 45, his gaze locked on the seven sawdust circles in the center of the temporary stadium’s grass.
Little known abroad, Schwingen is iconic in Switzerland.
The triennial national championships — where around 300 top-level wrestlers vie for the title of “Schwingerkoenig,” or King of the Schwingers — are the country’s largest sporting event.
This year’s edition was expected to draw 300,000 people, overwhelmingly from the country’s majority German-speaking regions which are Schwingen’s heartland.
The 2013 event started Friday and wraps up late Sunday in Burgdorf, a picture-perfect community in the Emmental valley, home of the eponymous cheese.
The region’s hotels were booked solid, and demand was sky-high for stadium tickets priced at between 165 and 225 Swiss francs ($177-242) for a two-day pass.
The remaining fans watched outside on big screens, or soaked up the atmosphere with the help of some of the 80,000 sausages and 210,000 liters of beer expected to be wolfed down.
Like football supporters in their team’s replica kit, many in Burgdorf sported peasant-style shirts in the colors of their home regions.
Swiss national television broadcasts the bouts live, and top-level Schwingers are big names, with 2010 champion Kilian Wenger, 23, and rival Matthias Sempach, 27, both big crowd-pullers.
“These are young guys, and real idols,” said Fabio Lorenzet of the championships’ organization team.
Star-struck youngsters dream of emulating their success.
“I’d love to be the King myself one day,” said 13-year-old Pascal, who, like Wenger, has been wrestling since he was nine. Other fans admire them for different reasons.
A typical Schwinger, Wenger weighs 106 kilos, is one meter, 90 centimeters tall and is as fit as a firefighter.
“Of course I like it because it’s a great part of our tradition. But also because of these are really manly men, not pretty boys,” said Seraina Derungs, 25, as she chuckled at suggestions that Wenger was the David Beckham of Schwingen.
The comparisons with stars of global sports like football also fall short because Schwingers are amateurs, do not receive cash prizes, and must give a cut of any sponsorship back to their club.
There are ways and means to get by, however.
For example, selling the Burgdorf bull would rake in 22,000 Swiss francs, and the big-name wrestlers are often tapped by advertisers.
“You can’t live from Schwingen, but I know a handful of them don’t have to work so much in their day jobs,” said Lorenzet.
Despite the star power and smartphone apps for fans, Schwingen has its feet rooted firmly in the past.
It emerged among mountain herders and woodsmen centuries ago, and has been seen as a national sport since featuring at gatherings held in reaction to French rule during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s.
It took off big time after Swiss-wide rules were set down ahead of the first national championships in 1895.
The basics include having to grip the opponent’s Bermuda-length Schwingen shorts with at least one hand throughout a bout, and to bring his shoulders to the ground within six minutes in order to win.
“It’s a test of physical strength plus quick thinking and composure,” said Walther, who competed at the 1995 championships and runs the Schwingen federation of Mittelland, a region near the Swiss capital Bern.
Unlike boxing, there are no weight categories.
A bout between a 142-kilo, two-meter Schwinger and one who weighs 49 kilos less and is 24 centimeters shorter might seem a lost cause, but turning a rival’s apparent advantage against him is part and parcel.
“It’s a complete sport, because you use not only your strength but also your technical skills to offset drawbacks,” 26-year-old competitor Vincent Heiniger told AFP.
“The goal is to beat your opponent. But there’s also a huge amount of respect, and that’s part of the tradition too.”
Championship Schwingers may well be nicknamed “Boesen,” or bad guys, in a nod to their toughness.
But that label is belied by their behavior: the winner always helps his defeated opponent up and brushes him clean of sawdust.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, on Thursday led the delegation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia taking part in the meeting of the international coalition countries to coun...
Munich: Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir led the Saudi delegation to the meetings of the International Syria Support Group meetings, taking place here.The meetings, which have begun, in Vienna, exert efforts to find a political so...
Brigadier General Ahmad Al-Assiri, the Military Advisor to the Minister of Defense, asserted the Kingdom is ready to send ground troops to fight Daesh, as soon as the international coalition gives the green light, and that this decision of Saudi Arab...
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will host the first meeting of the 34-member Islamic Military Alliance next month. According to a report in the local media, the meeting will bring together all nations of the newly formed coalition, led by Saudi Arabia.The allia...
JAZAN: Seven lives were snuffed out and several others sustained injuries as a gunman went on a killing spree in Al-Dair governorate of Jazan on Thursday. Employees at an education department office came under a hail of bullets resulting in casualtie...
RIYADH: The ongoing Janadriyah national heritage and culture festival welcomed German government representatives as the guests of honor, marking a new era in Saudi-German ties.Detlef Daues, chief executive officer of a German business group, said: “I...
RIYADH: Highlighting the importance of caring, preservation and better maintenance of mosques located along highways in the Kingdom, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and the Masajedna Foundation will honor excellence in...
ABHA: Women graduates in Asir say they are looking for private companies to hire them for online jobs which can be done at home.They asked businessmen to open new production lines for women in both factories and banks.The women said that this would c...
ABHA: Deviant groups have attempted to attract Saudi women to carry out terrorist operations by various means and in sinister ways.Many women have been found to have been recruited by terrorist groups inside and outside the Kingdom.Islamic scholar Mo...
RIYADH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has written a patriotic poem to inspire Saudi troops at the southern borders.Titled, “I wish to be with you,” the poem infuses encouragement in the hearts and minds of troops guarding the borders in Najran,...
RIYADH: A delegation of senior officials from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) visited the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) to discuss cooperation between the two institutions on sustainable energ...
RIYADH: The Office of the Education Department in eastern Taif has launched a program called “Fatin” which aims to protect students from intellectual threats around them.Fahhad Al-Zuibi, director at the Office for Education said, “The program aims to...
RIYADH: The Taif theater group won two awards when it participated recently in the ninth edition of a theatrical festival in Bahrain. The group, which represented the Kingdom in the theatrical festival, mounted a play production titled “Out of Contro...
RIYADH: Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar inaugurated the first festival for families with handicapped members at the King Fahd Cultural Center (KFCC) on Wednesday evening. The festival, which will last for three days, features a bazaar that displ...
RIYADH: A separate department to provide enhanced security to the Kingdom’s schools will be set up in all educational regions, Education Minister Ahmad Mohamed Al-Issa announced on Wednesday.Under the new directive, such departments will be establish...

Stay Connected

Facebook