On Saturday the 17th, the thirty year Winter Olympic medal drought ended. And Liechtenstein fans all over Rochester rejoiced.
In a stunning upset in the Women’s Super-G, snowboarder Ester Ledeka — using borrowed skis — won the Gold medal. But Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather captured the Bronze. In doing so, Tina — daughter and niece of Liechtenstein’s fabled sister/brother duo, Hanni and Andreas Wenzel — became the first Liechtenstein Olympian to medal since Paul Frommelt in the 1988 games in Calgary.
On February 23rd, Tina competes in the Women’s combined with a shot at another medal.
(See also Liam Boylan-Pett’s One family has made Liechtenstein, a 38,000-person country, an Olympic skiing powerhouse 2/ 11/ 18)
For 4 Olympics, from 1976 – 1988, Liechtenstein skiers were the darlings of the Alpine skiing world — and beyond. Hanni won 4 medals, including two golds and a silver; Andreas won 2 bronzes. The brothers Frommelt won bronzes in ’76 and ’88. Ursula Konzett won a bronze in Sarajevo.
During that heyday of Liechtenstein skiing, maybe people liked how plucky and peace loving Liechtenstein stayed neutral in the World Wars and then in the Cold War. The greatest triumphs came at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Along with the USA hockey team, the Wenzel siblings were the toast of the Adirondacks, especially Hanni.
Calling the Wenzels “the First Family of these XIII Winter Games,” D & C sportswriter Greg Boeck described how the news reached Liechtenstein from Lake Placid:
And so we felt on Saturday, when Tina ended the 30 year drought!
At this point, the reader may think I am a bandwagon Liechtenstein fan only tuning in when the Grand Duchy wins an Olympic medal. But rest assured, I can prove my Liechtenstein bona fides from way back.
As a boy, I liked the small countries of Europe: Andorra, San Marino and Monaco. Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein (pop. 38,000; area 62 square miles) was my favorite. Looking back, I am puzzled. Liechtenstein is a Monarchy while I am a democrat. Liechtenstein has long been a tax haven for corporations; I am against overseas tax havens for rich corporations. But I do recall liking that Liechtenstein was probably the model for The Mouse that Roared (1955), a satirical novel about an imaginary country in Europe, the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, that declares war on the United States.
So when planning our summer vacation trip to Europe in 1973, I begged my mother to include Liechtenstein. As seen in the second listing in her travel diary, she complied:
Decades later, some memories have dimmed. I do remember seeing our King’s — I mean Liechtenstein’s — castle.
As further proof is the film taken back before video camera — waiting to be digitalized.
A year later in Mrs. Heyer’s class at the Twelve Corners Middle School, we were asked to write a report on the county of our choice. The result was very much a product of the analog age: facts taken from print encyclopedias and handwritten on lined paper and illustrations taken out of National Geographics stored in bins at the town library and then taped onto crepe paper.
Despite what might today seem a shoddy production, Heyer’s comments were justified.
On the 23rd, root for Tina!
ON OTHER SMALL EUROPEAN NATIONS