Eric Frenzel heads into Sochi as one of the favorites for gold. Four years ago, in Vancouver, he won bronze with Germany. But you cannot compare the Frenzel of 2010 to the one of today.
It was a few years ago: Eric Frenzel was 19 and still a "new kid" in the national team. The Nordic combined skier was on the training course in Lillehammer, Norway. Coach Hermann Weinbuch had scheduled strength training. Frenzel wanted to do squats with the 40 kilo (88 pound) dumbbells. But at that moment, the weights were being used by star man and veteran Ronny Ackermann, and Frenzel did not dare ask him if he could borrow the weights.
Ackermann was then the superior skier. His success had made him the widely acknowledged German king of Nordic skiing, which combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping. He was the leader of the team.
Frenzel has since long overcome his shyness. After winning gold at the 2007 Nordic Junior Ski World Championships, he blossomed into a star. The 25-year-old is now a two-time world champion and Ackermann is now his coach. With Eric's talent and ambition, says Ackermann, comes an exceptional desire to get better and better.
Frenzel has been a talented runner since childhood. Since then, he has also developed into one of the best jumpers in Nordic skiing. Over the last three years, Frenzel - born in the small Saxony town of Geyer - has improved enormously. He has worked on improving his movement and speed to become what the experts call a "complete combined skier" - one who is equally strong in cross-country and ski jumping.
World champion and World Cup winner
Even defeats do not upset Frenzel's balance. He traveled to the 2013 Nordic Skiing World Championships in February as the defending championship and hot favorite to repeat his heroics. But he exited early in the competition after finishing fourth. It was a bitter defeat. In TV interviews afterwards, he was more taciturn than ever before. It was clear how much it bothered him, especially because teammate Björn Kircheisen snatched the bronze medal from under his nose.
But just a few days later, Frenzel won the large hill competition and claimed the second World Championship title of his career. Then, in March, came his World Cup title. It was without a doubt the most successful winter of his career.
An even bigger challenge for Frenzel than the hills and slopes of the world is being a young father. His son Philipp was born in January 2007. Frenzel met his girlfriend Laura at a sports boarding school in the Saxony city of Oberwiesenthal. It has not been an easy task, balancing family life and elite sports. Winter athletes really only get time off in April - by May, they are already training for the new season, which lasts until the end of March the following year. They are often gone for weeks at a time attending training camps or competitions. "They are my support," said Frenzel about his girlfriend and son. "It's really important when you know it's all how you want it. Then your head is clear for sports. That is a boost."
A big opportunity is now up for grabs at the Olympic Games in Sochi. Frenzel is once again in top form and a hot favorite. At the inaugural Nordic Combined Triple event in Seefeld, Austria, he won in three successive days. After the final run, Norwegian Magnus Moan approached Frenzel and bowed, offering a warm congratulations. Perhaps only a fellow competitor could measure the effort it took for Frenzel in his three performances, and Moan's tribute clearly showed the respect that even his greatest rivals have for the German.