Weirather follows in family’s Olympic tradition
Few athletes at the Sochi Olympics were born to succeed quite
like skier Tina Weirather.
Weirather’s early-season results on the World Cup circuit, which
include two runner-up finishes in downhill, make the 24-year-old
racer from Liechtenstein a strong candidate to take Lindsey Vonn’s
title in the marquee race.
If she does, Weirather will add a chapter to an illustrious
Her mother, Hanni Wenzel, was a two-time gold medalist at the
1980 Lake Placid Olympics and combined with Tina’s uncle, Andreas
Wenzel, to win a total of six medals in three Winter Games from
Weirather’s family has won two-thirds of all the Olympic medals
ever earned by Liechtenstein’s athletes, in summer or winter
sports, since the tiny principality first sent teams in 1936.
In addition, her father Harti placed ninth in the Lake Placid
downhill representing his native Austria.
Weirather told The Associated Press in a recent interview that
growing up in a family of Olympians, world champions and overall
World Cup winners was ”just normal for me.”
”I don’t know it any different because I grew up like that,”
she said. ”I don’t know how it is to have other parents and that’s
why I don’t have a problem with it.”
Weirather was born in 1989, nine years after her mother’s
dominating display in Lake Placid – gold in slalom and giant
slalom, silver in downhill behind Austrian great Annemarie
When growing up, Weirather said trophies and medals were not
prominently displayed in the family home in Planken, but parental
advice stays with her.
”Well, they told me that at the Olympics everyone is a little
bit more nervous and a little bit different to every other race.
It’s hard to do the same as you always do when you’re successful,”
said Weirather, who raced far from the spotlight as a 16-year-old
at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
Hanni and Andreas Wenzel won medals at the 1980 Olympics – his
was silver in giant slalom – before completing an astonishing
family double: Both were the overall World Cup champions that
”The Olympics is like `Today is the day,’ and I think that is
more pressure than you have when it’s about the overall,” said
Weirather, who leads the overall standings.
Reaching new peaks at 24 is ”kind of surprising” to her this
season, though injuries slowed the long expected rise of the former
junior world champion.
Many skiers joke that it takes at least one serious injury
before a racer has a true Alpine career. Even so, it hardly seemed
fair that Weirather endured four ruptured ACLs before her 21st
birthday. Her right knee has blown out three times and the most
recent was the worst.
In January 2010, three weeks before she was due to arrive at the
Vancouver Olympics, Weirather crashed out of the World Cup downhill
in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
”I knew from the first moment that it was broken and it was the
third time in the same knee so you never know how that turns out
and if it is ever going to be good again,” she said, calmly
recalling such a difficult period.
”There were a lot of bad days where I thought that I won’t make
it, where I thought it’s impossible for me to ever get where I am
The comeback was signaled in December 2011 when, wearing bib No.
40, Weirather finished second to Lindsey Vonn in a downhill in Lake
Louise, Canada. Two more podium finishes followed and she was
runner-up to Vonn in the season-long downhill standings.
Her progress slowed again last season after sustaining a shin
injury – similar to one Vonn had in Vancouver – back in Lake
”The shin is like the part where you feel the snow and the ski,
and you get a lot of pressure on the shin. When that part hurts you
just can’t ski fast,” Weirather said. ”I just tried really,
really hard and it just didn’t work out. That was tough.”
Still, she broke through in March with a first World Cup race
win, in a super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Her mother was there to see that victory, and again for the next
one – on her 57th birthday this month – in St. Moritz in
Hanni Wenzel and Harti Weirather, who run an international
sports marketing business from Planken, would seem to be lucky
charms for their daughter. Yet she plans for them to stay away from
the Olympic course, where she finished fourth in a World Cup
downhill in February 2012.
”No, they won’t come,” Weirather said. ”I thought it’s better
when I do my thing all year and that’s what I do in Sochi,