Liechtenstein’s Stephanie Vogt was 18 years old when she was first told that she would be playing at an Olympic Games.
In May 2008, the up-and-coming player from the Central European Principality was given a Tripartite Commission Invitation Place to compete in the Olympic Tennis Event at Beijing. Just one week later she slipped in a quarterfinal at a $50k event in Bucharest suffering a career-threatening injury to her right knee.
Unable to play, the teenager was forced to hand back her invitation to Beijing 2008 and, just to rub salt into her very fresh wound, she missed out on the opportunity of qualifying for a first Grand Slam event at Wimbledon after her ranking began to plummet. Four years on and life couldn’t be much different for the charismatic character from one of the smallest countries in Europe.
Vogt learned that she was not only being given a second opportunity to play at the Olympics but that she would also be competing at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon for the first time in her career.
“I was at home, having just come back from the morning practice, and I got a call from our Chef de Mission for the Olympic Games,” explained the 22-year-old. “I didn’t know what it was going to be about and he told the news to me and I was glad that I was sitting! I was really surprised; I didn’t know what to say because we actually expected the decision in early May so it was really totally out of the blue. “I have received a lot of congratulations and I’m really happy – I’m floating a bit! It means a lot to me and I’m sure some friends will raise a toast to me on the weekend.”
The Tripartite place offers Vogt the chance for personal redemption, but it also increases her nation’s Olympic team by a staggering 50 per cent. With just under 100 days to go the Liechtenstein contingent for London 2012 numbers just three – a swimmer, a marathon runner and now a tennis player.
“It is a big deal for Liechtenstein,” added Vogt, whose country has a population of just 35,000. “There’s going to be more coaches and official people than athletes!”
Vogt has already decided that she will be staying in the Olympic Village and she can’t wait to meet all of the big names in the world of tennis, even if that means taking on the likes of Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova in the first round. She explained: “I would love to play a big name as that would mean one of the big courts, or Centre Court, so I would be a bit shaky but it would be a great experience.”
An experience she is unlikely to forget. Vogt reached a career-high ITF Junior Ranking of No. 5 and was poised to break into the Top 200 at the age of 18 when she suffered her “horrible” knee injury that could have so easily ended her life on tour.
Her biggest achievement to date is winning a $50k event on clay in Croatia (ironically defeating the same opponent against whom she turned her knee one week later). She hopes to use the boost that the good news she will be competing at London 2012 has given her to spur her on to bigger and better things. “It’s going to be a great opportunity and a great experience,” she said. Now all she needs to do is stay injury-free.
Photo: Eddy Risch