Lisette Thoene. Retired Star Reflects On A Brilliant Career

Lisl provided Germany with a multitude of World Cup medals. The German Foghorn (so named by us for her distinctive war-cry when supporting her race-day teammates) served her country with distinction. The Brake finds out what her highlights were and where life is headed now she's free.

Credit: Lisette Thoene

TBM: Thanks for talking to us Lisette! You had an amazing career in bobsleigh. Where did it all start?

LT: So before bobsleigh I did track and field. I was a long jumper. But I had a lot of injuries, generally with the foot that I jumped with.

So after a lot of these problems I thought, ‘ok I’m done with track and field, but I’m not done with sport.’ and at the German Championships I got talking to a coach who I knew was involved with bobsleigh.

1 week later I was at my first push training session at the army base in Koniggssee and then 4 or 5 months later I sat in a bob behind Anja Schneiderheinze for my first run down Winterberg.

TBM: And ….. ?

LT: And I felt sick and thought, ‘never again!’. But then I went back up the track and did my second run and from there the story began.

TBM: I had pretty much the exact same experience.

LT: You can’t describe how bobsleigh feels. It’s not like driving a fast car or riding a rollercoaster, it’s just totally different!

Credit: Lisette Thoene

TBM: What was your favourite part of training?

LT: I think it’s a combination of everything really. You have to be really strong and at the same time really fast. Plus, when you’re on season, you also have all the mechanical work to do on the sled.

So there is the physical part and the hands-on mechanic part too which was cool.

I really enjoyed the sprinting aspects of training, and for most of my career liked the squat and I got pretty good at it. Towards the end of my career I liked it less though! I wanted to be able to give everything I did my best effort but I just lacked motivation with squat towards the end.

It was a new experience to get strong in this way though, and funnily enough, as I got stronger and heavier for bobsleigh, I got faster than I ever was in track!

Credit: Lisette Thoene

TBM: What was your favourite part of competing?

LT: Firstly I love the fact that you race in any weather. It can be nice, it can be raining, it can be freezing cold and snowing, but despite the conditions you must give your best effort.

Lots of us come across from track and field and obviously we love the warm weather. You learn in bobsleigh that you can still sprint in minus temperatures too! It still works.

There’s also the team aspect. I love that. I am responsible for supporting my pilot, responsible for the materials we compete with, it is not just about me.

I also tried driving for one year and discovered how you have such a short time to react. Any mistake within a split second and it’s all over. It’s a big pressure.

Credit: Lisette Thoene

TBM: What are your fondest competition memories?

LT: My very first World Cup was in Igls, Austria in 2011. It was also my first gold medal! I still have scars on my legs from the ice spikes during the push! It was so overwhelming though, so I will always remember this.

My retirement race in 2020 will also be a fond memory. It was in Sigulda, Latvia and my pilot had crashed there the year before. I had raced less in the last couple years of my career and in my retirement season I had 2 World Cup races on the podium which was special.

I was really proud of the Sigulda result. We stepped on the podium knowing we had managed our training week really well, I had supported my pilot really well, so yes it was a very satisfying final result for me.

Also, that day you guys sang to us for Valentines Day which was really cool!

TBM: Ha yes team GB taking things seriously as always.

LT: No it was fun! You didn’t even have a women’s GB team there competing and you still came out to do that for us, it was really cool.

So yes my first and last races were my best competition memories!

Credit: Lisette Thoene, final race in Sigulda, Latvia