Just wake up in the morning and not think about the next training session. Instead, the children ask: What do we want to do today? Having no plan and enjoying exactly that, that's how Eric Frenzel imagines the first day after his last day as an active Nordic combined skier. The most successful athlete at the Nordic World Ski Championships ends his sporting career. After the two remaining World Cups in Oslo and Lahti, the end of March should be over. "It's a nice moment to step down," Eric Frenzel told F.A.Z.

Julia Basic

Sports editor.

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A week and a half ago, he won his 18th World Championship medal in Planica – no one else has won so many before. Silver with the relay. As the German starting runner, he had entered the cross-country ski run 23 seconds behind the leading Norwegians and made up the gap completely. "This medal," says the 34-year-old, "was my last sporting goal. In Planica, I have come full circle." In 2007 – the year he competed in the World Cup for the first time – he won his first international medal there in Slovenia: gold at the Junior World Championships. So now also his last. "Everything worked out again in the end," says Eric Frenzel. "Now it's good. I don't need any more confirmation."

In Beijing like in a bad movie

After three Olympic victories, seven World Championship gold medals, five World Cup overall victories in a row and 54 triumphs in World Cup races, the extraordinary career of the Saxon comes to an end. For him, it was a time full of successes and beautiful experiences, but also a time of constant questioning, with pressure to perform and great expectations. He never missed a major event due to illness or injury. He always brought home at least one medal. Sport has always been something fair for him, says Frenzel: "Everything you invest, you get back through success."

There were also setbacks. As an emotional low point, Frenzel describes the time he had to spend at the Olympic Games in Beijing 2022 because of a positive corona test in quarantine. He felt like he was in a bad movie. After twelve days he was "released". Just in time for the team competition, in which he contributed to the silver win – his seventh Olympic medal. The time he had to spend locked up in the hotel room, he had quickly ticked off.

"He didn't waste any energy dealing with things that didn't go so well," says Frank Erlbeck. The 62-year-old is a coach at the Federal Base for Nordic Combined in Oberwiesenthal, not far from Frenzel's hometown of Geyer. He has known Frenzel since 2000, when he came to the elite winter sports school in Oberwiesenthal at the age of twelve. Erlbeck remembers a "slender, always polite boy" who made up for his physical disadvantages with an irrepressible will, great diligence in training and the ambition to always want to be the best.

"Sometimes we had to stop him," says Erlbeck, looking back on a situation at the end of a rainy late summer day, when he sent Frenzel into the evening after an intensive week of training. "Then Eric said: But there are still 30 kilometers of rollerskis on the plan. I said to him: Enough is enough, Eric. Training cleverly also means regenerating."

"At my side in difficult times"

The best form of regeneration for Eric Frenzel, who now lives in the Upper Palatinate, was and is to spend time with his family. His winter sports enthusiastic parents once brought him to the "NoKo". His father accompanied him as a trainer in his first years in the club. He felt that the step to go to the sports boarding school was something big and important. Frenzel describes his home trainers Jens Einsiedel and Frank Erlbeck as very influential confidants who have shaped and supported him over the years: "They have made me the athlete that I am. Even in difficult times, they were always by my side."