Athletic Biography of World Champion Bobsledder Ivo Rüegg

 

 

1970 – 1984: Earliest Athletic Experiences

1970 – 1978: Earliest Memories
As a small fry, I had plenty of opportunities to get exercise outside. My parents tried very hard to let us kids develop as freely and with as much variety of choice as possible.

1978: The Sports Club of Tuggen
As a 7 year old I was allowed to participate in the Youth Division of the Sports Club of Tuggen, my hometown in Switzerland, and I had lots of fun from the very beginning. Our trainer, Wisi Zueger, knew just how to challenge and motivate us with his program in multi-sports, and a whole group of really good athletes thrived and grew under his care. This resulted in a huge rivalry among us, and we learned early to fight to be the best.

1978: First Ski competition
 Around the same time, I started taking part in a few youth ski races, initially with the Ski Club of Galgenen (a neighboring town), where Hans Pfister ,the father of one of my team mates, was instrumental in entering us Tuggen boys in ski races and transporting us to events.

1979: The Gymnastics Squad of March
Besides taking part in the Sports Club of Tuggen, I was able to participate in the Gymnastics Squad March by taking an aptitude test. I did gymnastics for three years, and was able to achieve a few good rankings. Gymnastics turned out to be key for my development of concentration, good tension and posture, body control, etc.



1980: The Ski Club of Waegital
Skiing became more and more important to me, and I switched over to the Ski Club of Waegital, where I am still a member today. At the Ski Club of Waegital I was mentored by Joseph Schnyder and I was trained by Noldi Maechler, who later became a top Middle Distance Sprinter and represented Switzerland in several World and European championships. At the time, Switzerland had so many top ski racers that of course I wanted to become one too. 

 

1980: My first memory of the Olympics
In 1980, the Olympic Games took place in Lake Placid, and these were my first memories of the Olympic Games. My uncles Toni and Max Rüegg (on the Swiss bobsledding team) were there too, but they unfortunately could not compete in the four-man bob because the team with pilot Peter Schaerer didn’t survive the internal qualifying rounds. Shortly thereafter, my uncles switched over to the bob-team with pilot Erich Schaerer, two-man bob Gold Medalist in Lake Placid. In 1982 my uncle Max Rüegg and his pilot Erich Schaerer become World Champions in the two-man bob.

 

1983: Competing in “Nationalturnen” (National Swiss Track and Field/Combined Events Competition).
For one season I gave competing in the “Nationalturnen” competition (from here on named “track and field/combined events”) a go. “Nationalturnen” is a  traditional Swiss sports discipline where men compete with each other in several different events, such as the shot put, high jump, track, Swiss wrestling, etc. With my good qualifying scores, where I always got the highest possible ranking, I was usually a strong contender. Part of the men’s combined events competition is “Ringen und Schwingen” (Swiss Wrestling) and because I didn’t train for that event, I had some pretty bad losses and naturally wasn’t able to win many competitions. But it was still a very educational time for me. 

 

 

1984: Soccer
Because I was always playing soccer with my schoolmates and a few of them were on the soccer team FC Tuggen, I often enjoyed jumping in unofficially as Goalie. I was asked a few times to join the team because they didn’t have a good Goalie at the time. Although my dad wasn’t very enthusiastic, as I as already doing a lot, I was able to play in a few matches of the soccer team FC Tuggen. When everyone began raving about my great accomplishments in the family restaurant, my dad couldn’t help but be proud of me  

1984 Track and Field/Combined Events
In the summer of 84 I was able to participate as an active club member in a Track and Field/Combined Events meet in Les Bois and two weeks later at the Swiss Meet (Eidgenössisches Turnfest) in Winterthur. For me as a young athlete, just being there was a huge experience. In the following years, I always took part in one or two meets a year. Because a few of my childhood friends were also on the team, we had no shortage of time to socialize and foster personal relationships, which was also very important to me, and still is today. Throughout the years a little group of “Jass” enthusiasts (a Swiss Card Game) was formed, and we still play today and have a ton of fun. 


 

 

1987 – 1994: From Alpine Skiing to the Decathlon

1987- 1989:  Alpine Skiing
First I was in the Youth Division, and then when I turned 17, I was with the juniors, and after that I was chosen to join the Interregional Skiing squad. In 1988, I had my first serious injury. I tore three ligaments of my ankle, and had to undergo an operation. It wasn’t the last time, for within the next five years I always tore ligaments on both ankles. That always set me back, and I was never able to keep up with the top skiers. 

 

As a highlight of my ski career I was able to take part in Alpine Ski Racing in the Lauberhorn Downhill Competition (Switzerland) as a forerunner. That was a sensational experience, as we got to stay in the same hotel as the top World-Cup athletes and take part in one of the most spectacular downhill events.  Because I wasn’t able to keep up with the top skiers in the Slalom and Giant Slalom event, I got more and more joy out of participating in this superfast discipline. 

 

1990:“Steinstossen” (Swiss Stone Put)
A few friends and I from the Sports Club of Tuggen began to take part in several “Steinstossen” competitions. (“Steinstossen” is the Swiss variant of the stone put, a competition in throwing a heavy stone that dates back to prehistoric times.) Naturally we had fun at these homegrown traditional events, especially because we were always top ranked, and we enjoyed the hometown congeniality and atmosphere.

1991: Skiing/Combined Events
Once again I was able to compete in the Alpine Skiing Downhill event as a forerunner but this time in preparation for the European Cup taking place two weeks later. Because I was getting better and better at the speed-skiing disciplines, I was able to take part in a few races at the European Cup, in addition to the International Ski Federation events. But this was to be my last season as a ski racer, because my back problems were getting worse and worse while preparing for the season, and I was not able to easily race in the events. The two following seasons I only took part in a few regional races.

 

At the Swiss National Track and Field/Combined Events Sports Meet Eidgenössisches Turnfest) in Luzern, Switzerland, I competed for the first time in a decathlon, and reached over 6300 Points.

1992: Bobsledding
For the first time I was able to take part in a few bobsledding runs as a pusher. I actually enjoyed it, but at the time I didn’t consider making a career out of it at all.

1993: Decathlon/Ice Hockey
I intensified my training in track and field events. I really was taken by the decathlon, because this sport asks so much of an athlete. You have to have strength, speed, endurance, jumping power, stamina, courage, flexibility, tactical skills, body control, etc. – a whole array of skills. We were a small group of motivated athletes who wanted to achieve something. We were trained by Markus Bucher.

 

With a few teammates we founded an amateur Ice-Hockey Team  we name the “Power Ants”. Ice-Hockey was an athletic discipline that I never really mastered buy hugely enjoyed. Unfortunately, I was only able to play about 1 to 4 games a year, because I soon invested much more time in bobsledding.

1994: Decathlon
In Kuesnacht am Rigi (Switzerland) I was able to beat the old Schwyzer Cantonal Record in the decathlon. 

 

 

 

1995-1997: Junior Swiss Bobsledding Champ...

1995: Bobsledding
My cousin Ralph and I made our way into a bobsledding school as pilots in St. Moritz, Switzerland. During these weeks we always rotated: one of us would be the pilot of the bobsled, and the other had to take on the roll of the bobsled pusher.  Our joy and fun was evident to all, though we started off with an old, retired bobsled.

That summer, I joined the Bobsled Club at Lake Zürich, where I got important support in the years to come. Heinz Mörgeli, the club’s president, took care of us athletes with great dedication.



1996:  Bobsledding/Decathlon/Swiss Stone Put
In the first bobsledding season I was able to become the Swiss Junior Bobsledding champion with my teammate Stefan Bamert. From this time on it became clear to me that I wanted to become great in this field. Together my team and I got better from season to season, starting with Cup Races, Swiss Cup, European Cup, and then the World Cup, finally qualifying for the European Championship, the World Championship, and on to the Olympic Games.

 

In the same year I was able to get a result of 7071 points in the decathlon in Jona, Switzerland, and bested my own cantonal record. I also won the coveted “Eichenkranz” (Oak Wreath) medal for winning 5th place at the decathlon National Swiss Track and Field/Combined Events Meet (Eidgenössisches Turnfest) in Bern for the second time after winning in Luzern in 1991.

In the Swiss Stone Put I was able to take home the national Swiss Title with the 12,5kg stone as well as the 18kg stone. In the following years I was able to win individually 10 more times, and with my teammates from the Sports Club Tuggen we took home to team title 11 times.  All together, my team and I had to climb up the podium with the 12,5kg, 18kg, and 40kg stone about 40 times!



1997:  Decathlon
We were able to celebrate a good victory for the Swiss Decathlon Championship in Zug, Switzerland. In the team classification Remo Bodmer, Stefan Bamert and I were able to take home the coveted title of National Swiss Champion. That was one of my last decathlons because I had sustained some minor injuries in the summer, and I was focusing more and more on bobsledding.

 

 



1998 -2004: Bobsledding Team Ivo Rüegg takes off

1998 (Bobsledding) For the first time we were able to win a European Cup. In Igls (Austria) we were able to beat out the team of Andre Lange in the four-man bob. In the following years we achieved a few more victories as well as winning the European Cup. As bobsled-run trainer I could always count on Dominik Scherrer, who guided me in bobsledding all the way up until the end of my career.

From this season on, Matthia Marty took charge as manager of the bobsledding Team Ivo Rüegg and with her great dedication, she was able to give the team a professional image and get us organized. As her last official duty she organized the press conference to announce my resignation from bobsledding in 2010.



1999 (Bobsledding) Stefan Bamert and I were able to climb the podium for the first time in the National Swiss Bobsledding Championship by winning an excellent 2nd place, coming in behind the team of Reto Goetschi.

In this season of 98/99 we were also permitted to compete for the first time in the two-man bob of the World Cup, and we came in 12th. In this season we competed in four races during the world cup. We got the best result in St. Mortiz, where we surprisingly came in 4th. In Winterberg we were able to reach a solid 7th place at the European Championships.



As a last note to my track and field “career”: In the neighboring town of Wangen the National Swiss Track and Field/Combined Events meet (Nationalturnen) took place. Because it was so close to home I participated, like many other members of our athletic club. After the preliminaries I was still in the lead, but in Swiss Wrestling I ended up face down in the saw dust four times! Even so, I was able to be adorned with the Swiss National Wreath of Honor.



2002 (Bobsledding) In 2002 we took first place in the Swiss National Championship. Together with Stefan Bamert we were able to prevail over the Bob Team of Goetschi and Annen. We were even happier because we were able to beat out Annen and Reich, who would later medal at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.





2003 (Bobsledding) For the first time, we were able to qualify for the World Championships in bobsledding. In Lake Placid we took 7th place in the four-man Bob. After that we improved our performance at each world championship.  In the subsequent ten world championships we took part in, we were able to reach every single place, from 7th place all the way to first place, at least one time.

2004 (Bobsledding) At the European Bobsledding Championship we were able to medal for the first time. All together we medaled 6 times (five silver, one bronze.) Unfortunately we never made it to the top, although once we missed first place by only a 100th of a second.




2006- 2011: Olympics, World Championships...

2006 (Bobsledding) A childhood dream of mine was finally realized as I was able to take part in the Winter Olympics in Turin for the first time. At the winter Olympics we received an Olympic award for placing in the top 8 in the two-man and four-man bob.

After that promising Olympic season I started training with Curdin Morell and Hubert Zueger – their training turned out to be extremely valuable and had very good effect on my career. Previously, my training had been organized by either Rico Freiermuth, Peter Roch, or Markus Bucher.



2007 (Bobsledding) The World Champion title and 2nd place for my team, as well as the Bronze for the National Swiss Team was our “booty” at the World Championships in St. Moritz. That was a huge success for me, and even more because it was on home turf in Switzerland. Together with Thomas Lamparter, Beat Heft and Cedric Grand we were able to achieve the best start time of everyone in four separate runs, and in our last run, we beat the standing world record.

In the Two-Man Bob World Cup in Cesana, the first race after the world championships, we succeeded in winning our first World Cup competition. It was our first and last time to win a world cup competition, but all together we were able to climb the podium steps at the World Cup about 20 times.  After our big success  our Bob team was able to count on some new private sponsors, Swiss Companies FERAG and GALENOS.

2009 (Bobsledding) After winning the four-man Bob world champion titel in 2007, we became the world champions in the two-man Bob for the first time in 2009. Together with Cedric Grand we won the title on the difficult bob track of Lake Placid. I can’t describe the feeling I had winning, especially since the season began less than favorably. At the beginning of the season, I received the news that my brother had cancer, and that my father was suffering from heart problems. I never would have believed that such things could rattle me so. But both of them got an all-clear signal, and today they are fine. But winning the world championship title during this time meant even more to me.




2010 (Bobsledding) With winning the entire world cup, I had already experienced my best and most consistent season. At my second Olympic games in Vancouver, Canada, we only got 4th place in the two-man bob, and 6th place in the four-man bob. Unfortunately we missed the mark and our chance to climb the podium.

 



In May 2010, I announced my resignation from world class sports. It was a difficult decision, but taking on new career challenges offered by my sponsor Ferag AG turned out to be the right thing to do, and this new undertaking is testing me in ways sports never did. It was nice to step back as the reigning victor of the World Cup, and to have some certainty of a stable future in a new career.



2011 (Bobsledding) At the four-man bob Swiss Championship I teamed with my brother Reto and my cousin and godchild Urs, with my cousin Ralph acting as pilot. For us four Rüeggs it wasn’t about winning, but about a family and communal conclusion to a long and successful 15 year bob sledding career.

 

A Final Reflection on my Athletic Career

What I am able to take home from all my years competing in one sport or another is not only my good achievements and wins, but all the experiences I had, the people I met, the competition with my teammates, or the celebrations at the end of a season. That I was able to experience so much, I thank many people. Without their support and dedication in many areas, such an athletic career would not have been possible. Of course there were differences of opinion at times which is part of being successful. But I can truly say that I always gave it my all to be successful, and I learned a lot along the way.

I had a good reason to be able to always motivate myself for the difficult training session and the effort I had to put into it: within my own family I was measuring myself against very high standards, whether it was in the track and field decathlon, where my godfather Toni Rüegg achieved almost 7,000 points, or my uncle Max Rüegg who was the world champion in the Two-man Bob. This drove me to want to achieve even better results. Also not to forget are the hard duels I fought with my cousin Ralph and my brother Reto Rüegg. This is how we were able to push ourselves up to the very top of the international peak.

After my vocational training as a plasterer (a person whose job it is to apply plaster to walls, ceilings, or other surfaces), I worked for the company of Salvatore Rovitti AG. That was a lucky thing for me because the boss was a sports fan. He gave me the backing to earn a living, but he also gave me enough freedom to practice my sport under the best conditions. Besides enjoying my work, the physically hard work was a good training.

I lived for and with the sport that has given me so much. Of course, there are always things where in hindsight I would have liked to have done differently. But I am proud that I have done everything the way I did.

I will always remain an athlete, even if I am not as active as I once was. I still follow bobsledding with great interest, as well as many other sports.

I would like to thank my parents who supported and motivated me to be an athlete from my earliest years on. In my early years, they drove me to all of the competitions and were happy to see me home safe and sound.

I believe that the deciding factor for a successful athlete is to have lots of opportunity to get exercise starting as a very young child, and to enjoy it. Of course, talent factors in, and the each athlete, no matter which discipline, is responsible for how much intensity and enthusiasm he or she brings to the sport.