Tanja Frieden was born to a Swiss father and Norwegian mother. Parallel to her career as a teacher, she began to snowboard in 1989, and made her debut at the World Cup in 1997 in the snowboard Alpine events...Runner-up in the border cross European Championships in 2000, with her first win in the World Cup in 2003.
Tanja Frieden obtained her place in the Swiss team for the Olympic Games in Turin on 27 January 2006, thanks to her results from the previous two competitions before the Games. The Winter Games in 2006 saw the debut of the snowboard cross event in the resort of Bardonecchia. Tanja was fourth in the qualifying heats. She went through to the second round with no difficulties. In the semi-final, she was neck-to-neck with the other competitors up to the last bends, but managed to finish second, securing a place in the final that afternoon.
A head-to-head with Lindsey Jacobellis
In the final, the Swiss competitor was almost assured a place on the podium from the half-way point. The two Canadians, Dominique Maltais (who ended up with the bronze medal) and Maelle Ricker, badly misjudged the start of the race. At that point, the title seemed set to go to the American Lindsey Jacobellis, who had won a narrow victory over Frieden at the “Winter X-Games” in 2003 after the Swiss snowboarder fell at the last mogul. But at the penultimate mogul, the American caught her board with her hand to rebalance herself in the air, so she said later. Then followed a hazardous landing which made her lose her speed and allowed Tanja Frieden to overtake her in the last few metres. Crossing the finish line she took the gold and gave Switzerland the first of its three gold medals of these Turin Winter Games in the discipline.
A golden couple
At 30, the Swiss athlete became the first Olympic champion in the history of the women’s snowboard cross event. This Olympic title is also a charming story, as the day before her gold medal, Tanja’s partner at that time, the American Seth Wescott, also won Olympic gold at the snowboard cross event.