Born into a family of Olympic winners and world champions, now Tina Weirather is herself a star in the international ski circus, and carries the hopes of Liechtenstein fans for World Cup victories and medals.
She was perhaps predestined to be a talented sportsperson. Her mother Hanni Wenzel is a double Olympic champion, four-time World Champion, Overall World Cup Winner of 1978 and 1980. Her father Harti Weirather secured the Downhill Cup in 1981, and was crowned Downhill World Champion in Schladming in 1982. Tina was clever enough to pick only the best traits from both her parents, declares mother Hanni with a laugh. From her father she has the enthusiasm for downhill courses as well as speed, while from me she got the sense of snow. Tina, whose real name is Christina, first ventured out onto the pistes at the tender age of two and a half. That was the Red Devils ski course in Kitzbühl, recalls Hanni Wenzel. It was the beginning of a burning passion. Tinas favourite activity has always been skiing. She would keep her ski boots on at lunch, in order not to lose time, and she was on the piste from early morning until the lifts stopped operating at the end of the day. In 1992 Klein-Tina was a forerunner at the Hanni Wenzel Cup, two years later she began ski racing herself, and quickly put paid to any doubts about her exceptional talent.
So it comes as no great surprise, one might think, that in the interim Tina Weirather has already won 6 World Cup races, has secured a total of 26 podium finishes, and ended the 2015/16 Overall World Cup a strong fourth. Yet the development from a one-time wunderkind to an absolute top racer has not always been smooth. Now aged 27, she has had to overcome many setbacks on her way to the top. For there is an ever-present risk of injuries, and she has suffered many injuries over the years. The first major injury occurred when she was aged just 17, shortly after she had been crowned Junior World Downhill Champion. While training on the World Cup ski run in Lenzerheide, the Schaan Ski Club athlete suffered a serious crash and tore cruciate ligaments in both her knees. The next cruciate ligament injury occurred one year later, when she crashed while training in Pitztal. In January 2010, she suffered cruciate ligament injury number four on the Cortina dAmpezzo downhill run.
The first two serious ligament injuries did not trouble Tina greatly. The third was tough, while the fourth was like the end of the world, she once said during an interview with the former Liechtenstein ski racer Marco Büchel. I had to think long and hard about whether it made sense to go on. Eventually, I decided to give it another try. The decider was an internship at a life insurer. Thats when it really became clear to her. Skiing is simply the best thing there is. If you have the chance to experience the training, to be part of a team, to travel, to meet a lot of people, to be outdoors, to test your limits every day if you have this chance and perhaps only two in a hundred ever will then you simply have to seize it by the horns.
So she swapped her office job and computer work for life in the fresh outdoors, for snow and skis. This was greatly to the regret of her father Harti Weirather, incidentally, who had been encouraging her to retire from the sport. He still has uneasy feelings when watching his daughters career. As the father of a daughter, you would prefer your precious child to be safely wrapped up in cotton wool from start to finish. Or you would prefer her to pursue cross-country skiing.
For Tina Weirather, however, cross-country skiing was never going to be an option. She originally wanted to become a journalist. Plan A, though, had always been professional skier. Until she reached the age of eleven, she played tennis regularly during the summer months, trained by Melanie Molitor, the mother of the star Swiss player Martina Hingis. But then two different sports became too much to manage, and she decided to concentrate on skiing alone. Her mother, Hanni Wenzel, accepted her daughters decision: I endeavoured, first and foremost, to pass my own passion for sport on to my children. In this she certainly succeeded. In addition, she also eased the immense pressure on her daughter, who was following in the huge footsteps of her parents. From the outset, I wanted to ensure that Tina could develop her own personality. As the daughter of Hanni and Harti, she had been under pressure and close observation from her earliest childhood this was unpleasant. For this reason, we frequently told her: Irrespective of who we are, you are you. Your own needs are paramount, not ours. Tina states that she does not feel any pressure. Quite the contrary: I am proud of my parents, and happy to have people with so much experience around me.
Even if the saying like mother, like daughter applies to Hanni and Tina in many ways, they have very different natures. While Hanni was an introverted athlete, Tina is a real team player, feels completely at ease in a team, and has a number of close friends in the ski circus. These include Anna Veith (formerly Fenninger) and Lara Gut, her direct rivals when it comes to World Cup victories and medals. But unlike Fenninger, Gut or US superstar Lindsey Vonn, Tina Weirather is not an athlete who polarises and supplies the media with material for sensational stories. I am perhaps a little boring, she laughs. She doesnt insult people, nor is she envious of their successes.
Whereby she has no need to be envious. For Tina Weirather has achieved a great many successes of her own. In the 2011/12 season she was the worlds second-best downhill racer, after Lindsey Vonn. On 1 March 2013 she celebrated her first World Cup victory at the Super G event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and was the first daughter of a former World Cup winner to follow in the footsteps of her mother and win a World Cup of her own. During the following season, Weirather confirmed her top form in the speed disciplines, and also became one of the worlds top performers in the giant slalom. As a reward for the triumph in the giant slalom at Val dIsère, she actually led the overall World Cup rankings for a whole week. This was followed by her victory in the downhill event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in March 2015, and her success in the Super-G of La Thuille in February 2016. At the World Cup final in St. Moritz in mid-March 2016, Tina Weirather triumphed in the Super-G. This was her sixth World Cup victory, causing her to draw level with her father Harti Weirather. At the same time, she passed the magic 1,000 point mark by coming fourth in the Overall World Cup, and is carrying the hopes of many ski fans that Tina will one day secure the top prize for the small Principality just like her mother Hanni Wenzel did in her own day.
Text: Michael Benvenuti