The Swiss who made their mark on the Winter Olympics
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are in full swing in PyeongChang – generating excitement beyond the Alpine countries from which they originate. All over the world, winter sports are once again on everyone's lips, as is the case every four years when the Winter Olympics come round again.
Since their inception, the games have become part and parcel of any professional athlete's career and they have indeed produced numerous Swiss champions. Almost 100 years on, we cast a look back upon some of the Swiss sporting legends who made their mark on the Winter Olympics.
The military patrol at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix
The Swiss military patrol, consisting of Alfred Aufdenblatten, Alphonse Julen, Antoine Julen and Denis Vaucher, won the first Swiss gold medal at the 1924 Winter Olympics. Although they didn't know it when they took part in the 'International Winter Sports Week' in Chamonix, the foursome made their mark on Swiss sporting history after 30 kilometres of cross-country skiing and 18 bullets fired at targets 250 metres away. Known today as the biathlon, it has been a fixture on the Olympic programme since 1960, although Switzerland had to wait for the 2014 Olympics before it regained the podium in this event, with Selina Gasparin taking silver. She also competed at PyeongChang along with her two younger sisters Elisa and Aita.
Tanja Frieden, her first attempt a masterstroke
Tanja Frieden needed just one attempt to win Olympic gold. Snowboard cross first became an Olympic event at the Turin games in 2006, and Frieden was the first ever to win the title in the discipline. Competing for the Olympic gold medal, at the last minute she got the better of the favourite, who thought she already had it in the bag but fell at the penultimate jump. Thanks to her Olympic title, Frieden was named 'Swiss Sportswoman of the Year' in 2006.
Bernhard Russi, downhill skier and ski run designer
Bernhard Russi is a Swiss skiing legend. Olympic downhill champion in 1972 in Sapporo and named 'Swiss Sportsman of the Year' that same year, he has had a second career as an architect of Olympic downhill slopes. He is for example responsible for the Jeongseon track in South Korea for this edition of the games, and also for the runs used for the games in Sochi in 2014, where Dominique Gisin and Lara Gut from Switzerland shone with gold and bronze.
Simon Ammann, the Olympic champion
Ski jumper Simon Ammann is the man of the moment during the Olympic Games. Double medallist at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, since then the 'flying man' has been known as 'Harry Potter', and he managed to repeat this performance eight years later in Vancouver. Flag-bearer of the Swiss delegation at the 2014 Sochi games, Ammann holds the record for individual Olympic gold medals in his discipline. He was back in form this season and PyeongChang has been his sixth Olympics.
Vreni Schneider, Swiss sportswoman of the century
Vreni Schneider indisputably has the greatest track record in Swiss women's skiing, with three Olympic gold medals, one silver and one bronze to her name. Competing professionally from 1984 to 1995, Vreni Schneider was elected 'Swiss Sportswoman of the Century' after winning the title of 'Swiss Sportswoman of the Year' in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1994 and 1995. Her record of success outside the Olympic Games has also made her one of the country's most spectacular athletes, with six medals at the world championships (three gold) and 55 world cup victories.
Richard Torriani, ice hockey legend
Ice hockey player Richard Torriani's claim to fame is that he won two Olympic medals, each time on Swiss soil. In 1928, then in 1948, each time in St Moritz, 'Bibi' took his place on the Olympic podium, his team having won bronze for Switzerland in the ice hockey tournament. In 1948, the hockey player from Graubünden even had the honour of taking the Olympic oath, and remains the first and only male hockey player to have had this honour.
Maya Pedersen-Bieri, the fearless
In 1994, Maya Pedersen-Bieri, a native of Bern, became one of the first women to take up skeleton and has participated in three successive Winter Olympics since 2002. This special event made its comeback after being included on just two previous occasions at the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics in St Moritz. But it was at the Salt Lake City games in 2002 that women took part in the event for the first time – Pedersen-Bieri came fifth. Four years later, returning from maternity leave, she won gold at the Winter Olympics in Turin. After a final run at the 2010 games in Vancouver, where she finished ninth, Pedersen-Bieri is still one of the top names in the sport.
The Swiss cross-country ski champion known as 'Super Dario' in Norway
Dario Cologna hasn't yet finished making his mark, but his sporting achievements are already remarkable and an inspiration to many. This native of Val Müstair was the first Swiss athlete to win a gold medal in cross-country skiing – at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 – and then went on to take two more Olympic titles in Sochi in 2014. And this year, after winning his fourth 'Tour de Ski', Cologna won another Olympic gold in PyeongChang.
This list of Swiss champions is far from exhaustive. Which Swiss sportsmen and women have been outstanding in your eyes since 1924?