As we try to catch up on our Olympic blog posts, we wanted to take a very brief look at one of the stranger Olympic demonstration events, at least in English-speaking countries: skijoring. At its most basic, skijoring is a skiing event where the competitors are being pulled across a racing course, traditionally by a reindeer and most popularly by horse, although often other pullers are used such as dogs, motorcycles, and snowmobiles.
(Skijoring at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics)
Competitive skijoring has taken place in Scandinavian countries for well over a century and occasionally was contensted at the Nordic Games. This means that its appearance as a demonstration event at the 1928 St. Moritz Olympics was far from unprecedented. The race was held on a frozen lake with eight starters and was won by the Swiss Rudolf Wettstein, about whom we know nothing. The runner-up, however, was Bibi Torriani, much better known for his ice hockey career with Switzerland, as he appeared in three editions of the Olympic ice hockey tournament and won bronze in 1928 and 1948. The third-place finisher was Polish skier Henryk Mückenbrunn, who won numerous titles in more traditional skiing events, but had to withdraw from the 1924 Chamonix Olympics due to injury.
Having an unidentifiable winner of an Olympic demonstration event would probably be sufficient for an Olympic mysteries blog, but in fact Torriani and Mückenbrunn are the only two individuals that researchers have been able to identify with any certainty, and we are not even sure if the remainder are all Swiss. This is not helped by the fact that other five starters failed to complete the course. For two, we at least have full names – Peter Conrad and Fritz Kuhn – but these names are so common that, without any additional identifying information, we cannot connect anyone to the skijoring event.
From there, the information only gets sparser. For one, we at least know their first initial, F. Mordasini, while another we have only a surname: Brander. Then there is the final competitor, who rode the horse “Rival”, for whom we do not have any indication of their name whatsoever. The Olympic mysteries do not come much more mysterious than that!
Skijoring is still contested worldwide, in a variety of forms, but has never again appeared at the Olympics. There are other mysteries from the 1928 St. Moritz Games, such as the identities of French military ski patrol competitors R. Geindre and G. Périer, but skijoring seems to be the most enticing of them all. We hope you enjoyed reading briefly about the competition and that you will join us for another blog entry in the near future!