The giant of Nordic combined
The best Nordic combined specialist the world has seen this decade, Eric Frenzel has a record five consecutive overall World Cup wins. Between Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018, he succeeded in keeping his title in the normal hill, and climbed to the very top of the Olympic records table with six medals, including three golds.
An early start
"Jump far, ski fast" has been Eric Frenzel's motto from a very young age. His father, a Nordic combined coach, first put him on skis at the age of two, and at the top of a ski jump at age six. "He got me interested in this magnificent sport," Eric said. Junior world champion in the sprint in Tarvisio (Italy) in March 2007, he joined the FIS World Cup circuit aged 19 in the same year. But he would have to be patient and perfect his talent before reaching the top. As a young father to his son Philip, he participated in his first Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010, returning home from the ski jump and piste of Whistler with a bronze team medal won with Johannes Rydzek, Tino Edelmann and Björn Kircheisen, behind the USA (silver) and Austria (gold).
Successor to Jason Lamy-Chappuis
Eric made history for the first time in his sport by becoming world champion on the normal hill jump in Holmenkollen, Oslo, in 2011, then by taking the bronze on the large hill jump, in addition to two silver team medals. On 4 December 2011, in Lillehammer, he won the first ever penalty race held in the World Cup. During the 2012-2013 season he was flying, putting an end to the domination of Frenchman Jason Lamy-Chappuis (three-time World Cup winner) by taking six victories and winning the overall title, as well as the big Crystal Globe that comes with it. He also became individual world champion for the second time after dominating in the large hill (K120 + 10km) in Val Di Fiemme on 28 February 2013.
First Olympic title
Eric arrived at the Sochi Games just after a unique achievement: between 17 and 19 January 2014, in front of 18,000 enthusiastic spectators in Seefeld (Germany), he won the so-called “Triple” with three consecutive wins in the 5km, 10km and 15km! According to the press in his home country, the German was "unbeatable", the "King of Seefeld", with a "historic feat" to his name, and the athlete to beat to win in Krasnaya Polyana at the Sochi Games. With a significant lead in the overall World Cup standings, Eric was clear favourite for the normal hill Olympic event beginning on 12 February on the HS106 hill of the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre. He started the 10km cross-country race in the lead after a jump of 103.0m, breaking away from the pack with Akito Watabe (Japan), whom he later dropped at the end of the course to win by four seconds. "It's amazing, incredible! There are no words to describe how I am feeling. It is the best day of my life," he said. He placed 10th in the large hill event then won his third Olympic medal on 20 February – silver in the team relay with Kircheisen, Rydzek and Fabian Riessle, after Riessle was beaten in the sprint in the anchor leg by Norway's Jørgen Graabak.
World Cup record
In the four years separating the Sochi and PyeongChang Games, Eric became a record holder for the most overall World Cup wins: he took the title five years in a row from 2013 to 2017. He has 40 victories to his name, including 13 on his home turf in Seefeld, as well as five World Championship medals: the team gold and silver in the team sprint in Falun (Sweden) in 2015, then, at the 2017 championships in Lahti (Finland), the team gold again, as well as gold in the team sprint with Johannes Rydzek and silver in the normal hill. But Eric went on to make a fairly lacklustre start to the 2017-2018 winter season. He had been deprived of victories and podium places when he arrived in South Korea to defend his title. Before taking on this challenge, he carried the flag for Germany at the Opening Ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games.
A show of strength
On 14 February 2018 in Alpensia, Eric started the cross-country leg in fifth place following the jump, 36 seconds behind the Austrian Franz-Josef Rehrl, who had performed best on the hill. But in the final stretch, the 10km race turned into a battle between the German champion and Akito Watabe, just like four years earlier in Sochi. Eric launched an unstoppable attack on the very difficult final climb. He immediately took a 10-second lead as he returned to the stadium, allowing him to take the power off as he crossed the finish line, seemingly stunned by his own immense performance. Watabe finished almost five seconds behind him, while the Austrian Lukas Klapfer crossed the line 18 seconds down to take bronze. Eric Frenzel became the first Olympian to retain the normal hill title since the East German Ulrich Wehling, who won three consecutive golds in the event in 1972, 1976 and 1980.
On every podium at PyeongChang 2018
The large hill event on 20 February turned into a demonstration of team strength from the German contingent. Eric, Rydzek and Riessle, all well placed after the jump, attacked as a group 1km from the end of the course, forming a breakaway and battling it out for victory in the sprint: Rydzek took gold and Riessle took silver, leaving Eric with the bronze. "After a so-so season, we have shown how powerful the German team is, and that it is a force to be reckoned with. Last year, we achieved a World Cup triple, and we are starting out on the same course at the Olympics! It is priceless," commented Eric, by this point the holder of five Olympic medals.
And it was not over yet! The PyeongChang Winter Games finished with a Grand Slam for the German Nordic combined team and a third gold medal for Eric. In the large hill, the team comprising Vinzenz Geiger, Riessle, Eric and Rydzek produced a standout performance in the 4 x 5km, winning with a lead of more than 52 seconds over the Norwegians, who previously held the title. "It is an incredible day for us, especially after the Sochi Games, where we were beaten by the smallest of margins," reflected Eric, for whom the win also meant a third Olympic gold, putting him at the top of the Nordic combined medals record table with Felix Gottwald (Austria) and Samppa Lajunen (Finland). His six-medal total puts him just behind Gottwald (seven podiums between 2002 and 2010).
At PyeongChang 2018, Eric Frenzel established himself, at the age of 29, as one of the giants of his discipline. "We are planning four more years with my trainer Frank Erlbeck, which means that, if I continue to perform well, I will return for the next Winter Olympics," he said in May, before resuming training ahead of the season to come.