Dateline: Vienna Rapid Vienna are not in the rudest of health at present. Indeed, so rapid has been their decline since Lothar Matthäus became their coach last summer they stand third from bottom of the Austrian Bundesliga. They could do with a shot in the arm from somewhere – from the medicine man who has restored Jason Gardener to healthy, high-speed working order, perhaps. If the "Bath bullet" hits the bullseye in the 60m final on the third and concluding day of the European indoor track and field championships here this afternoon the first person he will thank will be Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfhardt. The back problem that plagued Gardener after he won the title in Ghent two years ago has been cured by the sports medical guru whose celebrated client list has included Colin Jackson, Katarina Witt and Luciano Pavarotti – and who, until recently, was a common-law father-in-law to Lothar Matthäus. The British sprinter was listening to tapes of Müller-Wohlfhardt's advice on stretching technique while he warmed up for the 60m heats in the Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion yesterday. Matthäus, meanwhile, was preparing his players for a Viennese derby against Admira-Wacker with the Austrian media making a fuss of his love life – or lack of it – following his split from his long-time partner, Müller-Wohlfhardt's daughter, Maren. "It is all right when you are a 30-year-old footballer dripping with sweat," Matthäus said last week, responding to speculation about his search for new romance. "That is very erotic. It's a different matter when you're a 40-year-old coach." Or when you're the 40-year-old coach of a club whose form is not even as good as erratic.
All's Welles that ends well for Bucher
The Viennese ferris wheel around the corner from the Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion is the very one that carried Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in The Third Man in 1949. It was while alighting from one of the Reisenrad's wooden gondolas that Welles stopped to deliver his celebrated speech about the the Swiss nation. It was penned by the actor, as an insert in Graham Greene's script. Playing Harry Lime, Welles famously remarked: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare terror, murder and bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock..." A further 53 years of peace and democracy has also produced two male Swiss winners on the track at the European indoor championships, Markus Ryffel and Peter Wirz (plus, one might add, an army knife furnished with such lethal implements as a tooth-pick and a cork-screw). This afternoon, in the 800m, within sight of the Reisenrad, Andre Bucher should be Switzerland's third man.
Boy David enters the Goliaths' den
David Fiegen was the third man behind André Bucher in the opening 800m semi-final yesterday but he is more of a one-man band – or rather a one-man team, to be precise. He is Luxembourg's sole representative at the European indoor championships here. The Grand Duchy has produced just one athlete of note before: Josy Barthel, the winner of the Olympic 1,500m title in Helsinki all of 50 years ago. Fiegen is also a middle-distance runner – an 800m specialist who improved his national record to 1min 47.81 yesterday in qualifying for today's final. At the age of just 17, he has the time and the talent to make a name for himself – and for his country too.
The British pole vaulter Nick Buckfield has been busy making a name for himself in the indoor season – though sadly not here, where he crashed out in the qualifying round on Friday, and not with his full appellation. He prefers to be known as plain Nick rather than Nicholas Jean Buckfield.
"I do get a lot of stick for it," he said. "A lot of people who aren't that well educated will ask why I've got a woman's name. My grandfather was French Candadian but I think my parent just liked the name. I quite like it too, actually." Despite his European indoor setback, Buckfield has taken the British pole-vault record to the globally respectable height of 5.81m this year – and taken himself to the dizzy height of top place in the European rankings. It might have been different had he made more of an impact as 15-year-old midfield triallist with Crystal Palace. "I spent several months training," he said, "but I didn't make the cut." The son of the javelin coach at Buckfield's athletics club, Crawley AC, had better luck with the Eagles. His name? Gareth Southgate.
Not a lot of people know that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most celebrated living native Austrian, had ambitions to be something other than a champion bodybuilder and film star. As a 12-year-old he was a flying winger in one of the junior teams run by Grazer AK, the football club who now play in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadion. Schwarzenegger's first sporting dream, though, was to follow in the brush strokes of his father. Gustav Schwarzenegger, the chief of police in Graz, was the curling champion of Austria and Europe. Young Arnie tried his hand at the game but without success. When it came to making the break and moving on to football, it is not certain whether father or son was the terminator.
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