Frank Prihoda: Australian Olympic Trailblazer from Czechoslovakia
By: Casey Conniff
Frank Prihoda, or Frantisek Prihoda, began skiing competitively when he was 13 years old. He was inspired to ski by his older sister, Alexandra Nekvapilova, who herself was a great skier and competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics for Czechoslovakia. Learning to ski in Czechoslovakia provided Frank and his sister ample opportunities, not only providing them with their future career paths, but also providing them the means to reach freedom and escape Czechoslovakia. One early morning, Frank and his brother-in-law Karel put on their cross country skis as if to go on a walk and then set out to Austria. Frank eventually decided to follow his sister to Australia and began skiing there.
Frank made a name for himself by picking up informal coaching while skiing on the weekends in between his job and competing in various Australian ski competitions. Eventually Frank was offered a position on the 1956 Australian Winter Olympics team. Frank competed in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events placing 54th out of 95 in the Slalom and 80th in the Giant Slalom.
While he may not have medaled and only competed in the Olympics that once, Frank Prihoda left a lasting impact on Australian alpine skiing and Winter Olympics. When Frank attended the Winter Olympics in 1956, he was one out of only 10 athletes sent by Australia to the games and was the second person to ever compete for Australia in the alpine skiing events. After competing in the Olympics, Frank settled in Thredbo, New South Wales where he helped his sister start one of the first ski lodge businesses there and became instrumental in bringing skiing to Australia.
Frank not only worked at the gift shop of the lodge, but also became an important member of the community. He took up an administrative role and eventually became the president of the Victorian Ski Association. He carried the Olympic torch for Australia in 2000 due to his trailblazing and pioneering role in Australian Winter Olympics. And most recently in 2020, Frank was awarded the Snow Australia Medal.
Today, Frank Prihoda is Australia’s oldest living Olympian about to turn 100 on July 8th. Frank kept skiing until he was 90 years old and while he may not be as involved with the sport as he once was, Frank’s love and passion for skiing has not changed. For Frank, skiing still embodies freedom, flight, and being at peace as a tiny speck in the vastness of nature.