This German monster has racked up the global medals in his bobsleigh career. He is one of the nicest guys on the circuit and a serious athlete. We're very pleased to be telling his story. Read on...
TBM: Hallo Eric! Thank you very much for talking to us. Let's dive right in. What is your sporting background and how did you get into bobsleigh?
EF: I started track and field when I was 8 years old, or in 1997 to be precise. I liked the sport and loved moving and working with my body and improving myself. As the years went by though, and I got to my early 20s I realised that I probably wasn’t going to make it as a pro.
I wasn’t bad but I also knew I wouldn’t get to the top. I was a 100m and 200m sprinter and it was my passion. I liked the work but as an athlete you are looking for success and if there is none then what are you going to do? You can keep working knowing you’ll never make it, you can retire or you can find something else.
I actually retired! I went to live a normal life and got a job etc but a couple weeks later I woke up and thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to try out for bobsleigh’.
One of my childhood friends Florian had been involved with bobsleigh for years and he always said to me I should try out. At the same time he told me that to do bobsleigh you needed to be big and strong. Now I’m tall, but I’m not that big or strong so I wasn’t sure if I’d suit it. But I thought why not give it a go and so at the age of 25 I went along with Florian to Altenberg push track where one of the German team coaches was there to have a look at me.
I pushed as hard as I could, not knowing what was a good time or bad time. The coach said to me, ‘please tell me you like it because if not I will be very sad!’. He was very happy with my performance which was cool. I did set myself one goal though, I needed to see potential in my first season otherwise I would retire. It’s a money issue more than anything and I couldn’t justify doing it if I wasn’t good pretty much immediately.
Fun times with Team Walther (Eric far left, joined by Josh Bluhm, Paul Krenz and Nico Walther)
TBM: Totally understand! Tell us about your first experiences of actually sliding...
EF: My first full run was in Königssee so I was treated very softly in the beginning! It’s a nice track in a beautiful environment. Everyone was telling me, ‘don’t worry this track is so soft you’ll be ok!’.
Still you have no idea what is coming. On the way down you have no idea where you are at and it felt like something between a car crash and a rollercoaster ride! I still liked it, but it was like nothing I had ever felt before.
I thought there are definitely nicer things to be doing than sliding down this hill but to be honest I saw the opportunity to evolve in this sport.
I wanted to be as good as I can be and after those first crazy runs, I was hooked. 1 run became 2 became 3 and next thing I knew I was on Europa Cup then World Cup and then my first World Championships. I got so much experience in those early years sliding with Lochner, Machata, Oelsner and it really put me in a good place to take my career forward.
The site of Eric's first experience - beautiful Lake Königssee, see track at bottom of the picture
TBM: Tell the people about the Pyeongchang Olympics, how did it feel to win a silver medal?
EF: When you are a child you set your goals, or I did anyway. The thought of an Olympic medal as a kid was just the biggest thing I could think of. Realising that I wouldn’t achieve that in track and field was a bit of a bummer and pretty tough to realise at one point.
Then to find a new sporting home in bobsleigh and getting to that point in Olympic season where you realise you have this opportunity to make an Olympic team was just awesome. Lots of pressure but as soon as I knew I was on that team, the goal shifted to win gold. Because that was our goal in Pyeongchang, to win gold.
We had been so strong all season ahead of the Games but the race itself was another story. We had been third all the way to the last run so to get silver did feel like a win. There was no disappointment, we were so happy. I never thought I’d experience something like an Olympic podium moment, or the feeling of flying home with a medal in my pocket.
I was really proud but to be honest with you, silver isn’t enough. I want that gold medal and that has to happen in Beijing 2022.
#teamskinny representing at the 2020 2-Man World Championships
TBM: You've moved crews to Team Lochner, how do you feel about the new environment?
EF: Yeh so Nico retired which I think was the right decision for him at that stage of his career. For me it had been 5 good years with him that gave me a lot of experience. I had my first World Championship medals, first Olympic medal and I’m so thankful for the moments we shared and the opportunities I got through him.
Now I feel like it’s another big challenge joining Lochner’s team which is a very strong crew. Particularly in my position on the back of a 4-man I will be competing with Christian Rasp who is a very strong guy and a gifted athlete.
It’s quite a challenge for me to be taking on at this stage of my career but I’m confident I can make it and be a starting brakeman on that crew for the World Championships next year, wherever they may be.
I’m also just happy and grateful to Lochner that I have been given that chance to prove myself. I’m not afraid of a challenge and it’s hurdles like this you need to overcome if you want to be an Olympic gold medallist.
Yellow success and to this day my favourite photo of all-time of Paul Krenz
TBM: Eric thank you for your time. Now as you know, we finish these interviews with a 'Would You Rather' question. So Herr Franke, what would you rather:
Smell poop for the rest of your life, or smell LIKE poop for the rest of your life?
EF: Wow that’s not easy to answer! I’m actually really thinking about this. Do you need an explanation why?
TBM: Totally up to you, there’s no judgement here.
EF: I think I would choose to smell poop constantly in my nose. There are many people I’m lucky enough to love in my life and I would still like to continue to see them. I feel like I would be socially isolated if I smelled like poop the entire time.
So to conclude, I would choose to smell poop and not smell like poop.
TBM: Excellent thank you very much.
Actually have no idea if this is Eric or not. Fingers crossed
Follow Eric's journey to Beijing and his new crew through Instagram: