Wilson Kipketer Zurich ()Wilson Kipketer Zurich () © Copyright

Best of Zurich

With the iconic Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich hosting the 2014 European Championships, we look back at nine golden moments to have graced the famous Swiss venue at the annual Weltklasse meeting.

1. Skeets goes sub-13 (1986)

On a magical night in 1981 (which also witnessed Seb Coe setting a new world mile record) Renaldo 'Skeets' Nehemiah became the first man in history to dip below 13 seconds for the men’s 110m hurdles, recording a stunning new world record of 12.93. The mark was to stand for eight years until his fellow American Roger Kingdom trimmed 0.01 from the record on the same track.

2. Swiss knives Coe in epic win (1985)

It’s one of the golden moments in Swiss athletics history: The relatively unheralded Pierre Deleze ran the race of his life to defeat reigning Olympic champion Seb Coe. The mark of 3:31.75 Deleze set that day still stands as a national record. 

3. Butch butchers one-lap mark (1988)

“He’s murdered it,” cried BBC commentator Ron Pickering, and few could argue. Harry 'Butch' Reynolds had just made a mockery of Lee Evans’ 20-year-old altitude fuelled world record of 43.86 set at the Mexico City Games by 0.57. It still stands today as the second fastest time in history for the 400m.

4. Komen downs Emperor Haile (1996)

Unbeaten on the track for two years and coming off the back of his Olympic 10,000m success in Atlanta, Haile Gebrselassie was made to look ordinary by Kenyan Daniel Komen. With Gebrselassie beaten he slowed to a jog over the final 200m prompting commentator Tim Hutchings to observe the Ethiopian had “thrown in the towel”.  

5. Seventy mad minutes (1997)

Three world records tumbled on the greatest ever night at the historic venue. Kenyan Wilson Boit Kipketer took the men’s 3000m steeplechase mark in 7:59.08, while the 5000m record went to Haile Gebrselassie. For many it was Kenyan-born Dane Wilson Kipketer’s obliteration of the world 800m mark - he had shared with Coe - by nearly half a second in 1:41.24 that became the highlight. For a bonus point, count the post-race ‘unbelievables’ by ITV commentators Alan Parry and Steve Ovett. 

6. Record number twenty-five (2009)

Traditionally a Mecca for the track events, the Letzigrund Stadium played host to a magical moment in the field as Yelena Isinbayeva bounced back from the blow of no-heighting at the Berlin World Championships just 11 days earlier to add 1 centimetre to her world record mark which still stands today. It was the Russian’s 25th world record.

7. Aman defeats Rudisha (2012)

Three weeks after blasting to the world 800m record at the London Olympics, David Rudisha’s competitive return in Zurich ended in a shock defeat to Ethiopian Mohammed Aman. Rudisha - known to be vulnerable in wet conditions - was slayed by the diminutive Aman, who had finished back in sixth in the Olympic final.

8. Defar v Dibaba (2013)

Meseret Defar and her fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba had proved the leading female distance runners for the best part of a decade. In a classic 5000m showdown between the pair it was Defar, the two-time Olympic champion for the distance, who prevailed.

9. 1966 and all that (2012)

Usain Bolt has made several appearances at the Weltklasse, but arguably the pick of them was this post-London Olympic performance where he sauntered to 19.66 on a cold, wet night in Zurich.