Just a few days ago, Tina Weirather careened down the super-G hill and went home with her first Olympic medal, a bronze. A few days later, she just missed another bronze medal when Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckle knocked her off the podium. But a medal in Alpine skiing isn’t anything new for her tiny home country of Liechtenstein; and it isn’t even anything new for her family.
Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest country in the world. At only 160 sq km, it’s slightly smaller than Washington D.C. (which is about 177 sq km) and is a fraction of the size of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S. Nestled between Austria and Switzerland, it’s easy for Liechtenstein to stay hidden – except at the Winter Olympics.
Rich with mountains, its population is estimated to be less than 40,000. But with 10 Alpine skiing medals won by Liechtenstein in Olympic history, it claims more Alpine medals than most countries. And one family can claim more medals than anyone else living in Liechtenstein’s 40,000 acres.
As the only female representing Liechtenstein, Weirather’s bronze medal is an accomplishment, but she’s living up to high expectations. Her mother is a four-time Olympic medalist, and her uncle can claim two. That’s right: Seven of Liechtenstein’s 10 Olympic medals have been won in one sport by one family.
Hanni Wenzel, Weirather’s mother, took home Liechtenstein’s first Olympic medal, a bronze in slalom at the 1976 Innsbruck Games. Four years later, Hanni dominated at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, winning gold medals in the slalom and giant slalom and a silver in the downhill. Hanni’s brother Andreas Wenzel joined her at Lake Placid, bringing home a silver medal in men’s giant slalom. Andreas went on to medal again at the 1984 Sarajevo Games with a giant slalom bronze. Harti Weirather, Weirather’s father, was also an international skier and represented Liechtenstein in the Olympics.
Weirather had a rough history with the Olympics until PyeongChang. She made it to Torino, came in 33rd in the super-G and didn’t finish in the downhill. Four years later, Weirather qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Games, but a knee injury kept her off of skis. She made it back for the 2014 Sochi Games, but a fall in training knocked her out of her two events.
But in PyeongChang, at age 28, Weirather proved she can keep the family business afloat.