Congratulations will be plentiful in Thredbo Village this Thursday when Frank Prihoda, Australia’s oldest living Olympian reaches the milestone of 100 years old. Frank Prihoda turns 100 on Thursday July 8, 2021 and the day will be celebrated with an intimate affair in Frank’s beloved village where he has spent half of his life. From his first day on July 8, 1921 in Prague Czechoslovakia, Frank has witnessed much in his life. From The Great Depression, World War II and leaving his homeland along with his sister Sasha and her husband Karel, all who eventually settled in Thredbo. His father, a prosperous artificial flower manufacturer, often took the family on car trips into the countryside in his American Hudson. “Europe was in turmoil and I only came to realise it later in life… as a little child you do not grasp these things,” Frank explained. Strapping on skis as a teenager, skiing would become a major part of Frank’s life including representing his new home country at the 1956 Winter Olympics. In 1936 Frank began ski racing with the Czechoslovakian Ski Federation squad. “Just before the war…in 1937, I went for my first downhill race. All week it was sunny and of course, the day of the race a blizzard came and I wore glasses...I couldn’t see a thing, they got frozen. I had a mighty tumble and that was my first race.” It wasn’t all lost, however, as this race was where Frank met one of Thredbo’s founders, Tony Sponar. A man with whom he remained lifelong friends and who influenced his road to Thredbo. In 1937, Frank was taken away from his skiing following the sudden death of his father and subsequent death of his mother as he went on to run the family’s manufacturing business with his skis taking a backseat. “Really since the age of 19, I was head of the business. I was pretending,” he says in jest. His pretending paid off, with the success of the business continuing through World War II. Following the war, political changes began to occur in the country, and it was during this time, Frank believed his business success would be negatively impacted by the country’s move into a People’s Republic. “I was a manufacturer and an employer and, my father was an employer. We were deemed to be bourgeois. Bourgeois is the enemy of people like the working class….as such, I saw I had no future [in the country].” He, alongside his brother-in-law, Karel Nekvapil decided to make their escape on skis. In January 1949, a friend drove to the south of Czechoslovakia, reaching a wide frozen lake bordering Austria. Karel and Frank set out on cross-country skis “for an outing.” He recalls many armed guards in the area as they slid across the lake, explaining he eventually noticed a herd of deer which indicated a lack of militia and an opportunity to escape to the country beyond. Arriving in Austria, his pathway to being recognised as a refugee was not an easy one, however, he and Karel were eventually able to join his sister Sasha Nekvapil and friend Tony Sponar in St Anton. Here they ran a ski tow powered by Frank’s jeep before making the move to a new life in Australia.
|Posted on:||July 6, 2021, 3:55 pm|