Rothlin homes in on the perfect farewell

Rothlin homes in on the perfect farewell
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Victor Rothlin will try to repeat his marathon win from the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona this summer in front of his home crowd  in Zurich on Sunday 17 August.

He is Swiss, he is the defending European marathon champion and he is counting down to the final race of his career.

Throw all those ingredients into the mix and Viktor Rothlin could not have dreamed of a better place to say goodbye to a sport where he has reached the highest level.

His last morning of competitive action will come on Sunday August 17, the final day of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

At 9 a.m. local time, the marathon will set off around a city where the support alone could provide him with the best imaginable farewell.

Rothlin has twice won the Zurich Marathon - in 2004 and 2007 - but a city race and a championship race are so different.

One can often be more about times, while the other can be more about tactics, with gold at the end of the long road.

The marathon was not on the programme at the last European Athletics Championships in Helsinki in 2012 as the event was staged in the same summer as the Olympic Games, so Rothlin's defence of his title has been four years in the making.

His preparation is in full swing with him training in the heat and altitude of Kenya ahead of a series of races in Switzerland as he heads towards the spectacular Zurich finale.

Rothlin's stay in Kenya will end when he runs in the Eldoret half-Marathon at the start of February before three races on home soil - a farewell tour perhaps - with an 11km in Reusslauf on February 22, another race in Kerzers on March 15 before the Berne Grand Prix on May 10.

A bronze medallist at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka in 2007 was a magnificent springboard to the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona in 2010 where he was among the favourites, a tag that was justified as he ran the last six miles all by himself to win in 2:15:31, four years after finishing second in Gothenburg.

That victory alone was remarkable in itself because just 12 months earlier he had suffered thrombosis during a flight that led to an embolism.

He rested; he battled back and the fight he showed then means he will not be ruled out of making the podium again this time, even though he has not finished in the top four of a major marathon since his European glory.

But there is nothing like a home crowd to lift an athlete, let alone one who is running on this stage for the final time.

The men's marathon was always going to be one of the showpiece events of the Championships and now it has got romance to go with the sweat and toil of 26.2 miles.