The Wenzels: from Innsbruck to Sochi?
Wenzel: a name that has given Liechtenstein its sporting acclaim. A name that resonates in the heart of a principality that it small in size, but large in its achievements.
The triple on a pair of skis
Two editions of the Olympic Games were enough to enter Hanni Wenzel in the history of skiing and Olympism: Innsbruck in 1976 and Lake Placid in 1980.
For her first participation in the Winter Games, the young skier did not have to travel the world or suffer from jet lag. The Austrian city of Innsbruck is only 150km away from her adopted country of Liechtenstein. On 11 February 1976, after the two slalom heats and passing through 101 gates, the athlete from Liechtenstein finished on the third step of the podium and thus gave her country the very first Olympic medal in its history.
Four years later in Lake Placid, Hanni turned up on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain at the top of her game. Entered in the same events as at the previous Games, this time she went home with three medals. Everything began with the downhill, where she was outdistanced by more than one second by Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell, and thus took a very fine second place. But she did not delay in climbing to the highest step of the podium. On 21 February 1980, she finished first and third respectively in the two runs of the giant slalom and thus took her first Olympic gold medal. She quickly added to these another two days later in the slalom with the best time of the two runs. For the skier, these Games ended with an almost perfect triple: gold, gold and silver.
Andreas and Petra Wenzel inherited the same sporting patrimony as their sister Hanni. The taste for Alpine skiing ran in their blood, and they were not afraid to follow the example of their elder sister by also taking part in several Olympic Winter Games.
In Lake Placid in 1980 and in Sarajevo in 1984, Petra Wenzel competed in the same events as Hanni: the downhill, slalom and giant slalom. However, she did not manage to reach the podium. Andreas, the brother, took part in four editions of the Winter Games: Innsbruck 1976, Lake Placid 1980, Sarajevo 1984 and Calgary 1988. He won two Olympic medals in the giant slalom: the silver in Lake Placid and the bronze in Sarajevo. The Wenzel family thus has two medals of each metal to its name - a string of titles that in itself represents two-thirds of the Olympic awards in Liechtenstein.
In the tradition of Hanni and Harti
In 1985, Hanni Wenzel retired from competition. She married Harti Weirather, a world skiing champion, and gave birth to Tina. At 21, the worthy daughter should have taken part in her second Olympic Games after Turin in 2006. In January 2010, she obtained her best results in the World Cup, with a decent seventh place in the super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, before falling victim to a torn cruciate ligaments the next day.
What’s the betting that the Weirather family will watch the Vancouver Games with a twinge of sadness? But the Sochi Games are have already been pencilled in.