News and views from Heidi Maeder
At the age of 67, Heidi Maeder is accumulating titles. A veteran walker, this Lausannoise still leaves youngsters standing at the Swiss championships. Supported by Bernard, her companion for twenty-three years, she sees herself carrying on until the age of 70.
She has a string of victories nearly as impressive as that of Roger Federer. When it comes to fame, on the other hand, they are worlds apart. A record that doesn’t bother her in the least. At 67, Heidi Maeder is not seeking glory. Not yesterday, today or tomorrow. What makes this Lausannoise tick is walking. The sport of walking. That unusual discipline, generally only seen at the OG, where dozens of athletes move with a peculiar swaying gait.
Having come to this sport late in life, at the time Heidi Maeder had no interest in talk of competition: “A bus driver saw me running one day and suggested I have a go at walking,” she recalls. “To begin with, I used to walk in a mechanical manner, it didn’t come easily.” The only woman in the CM Cour Lausanne club, she meets Bernard Binggeli, alias Bin-Bin, who takes her under his wing. Charmed by this woman of such dignified character, he registers her at Sion for her first race W85 . She carries off victory in 53 minutes. The Maeder missile is launched.
“I like Lausanne. The lake, wood Sauvabelin. It is spaced. There are many sports facilities and you can practice all the sports you want”
Never by bus
“At the start, competing gave me an opportunity to travel,” she explains. “Then you acquire a taste for it.” Registered in the veterans’ category, Heidi Maeder is without a rival. Since 1989, she has collected twenty-four world championship titles, eighteen successive European championship titles and eleven Swiss championship titles. Total number of gold awards: 54!
His eyes filled with pride, Bernard Binggeli points out the file in which the victories of his champion are recounted: “When the other competitors know that she is in the starting line-up, they know that they are aiming for the silver,” he explains. “It’s the “Heidi effect”.”
The product of a tough upbringing, Heidi Maeder is extraordinarily strong-willed: “We lived on a farm in Croix-sur-Lutry,” she says. “You went to school at the bottom of the hill and you walked!” And Bin-Bin adds: “I’ve never seen her take a trolleybus! She goes everywhere on foot.”
Le Relais de Vidy
With her ten hours of training every week, the champion knows her town as well as anybody. “I love Lausanne. The shore of the lake, Sauvabelin forest. It feels spacious. There are numerous sports facilities and you can do whatever sport you like. The Métamorphose project will bring us new amenities, it’s really fantastic.” Sensitive to the growth in traffic, the sexagenarian admits to feeling rather upset about the “chaos in town at times”. But that does not stop her from being proud to represent Lausanne and Switzerland in international competitions.
Once training is over, Heidi joins Bin-Bin at the Relais de Vidy for an aperitif. “Just a drop, no more,” stresses the sportswoman. Once, before a race in France, I was given a Suze to drink. It was fine for the first few kilometres, but after that…aaargh!” It just goes to show that healthy living is for a lifetime.
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