We've been wanting to catch Thorsten after interviewing his co-gold medal winner Alex Kopacz back in June. He talks about how he found bobsleigh, life in Team Friedrich and converting the Sochi experience into Pyeongchang glory...
Credit IBSF: A rare World Cup gold for Thorsten (L) and Francesco Friedrich
TBM: Thorsten welcome! Thank you for giving us your time.
TM: Thank you for having me.
TBM: You're welcome. Let's dive in, tell us your history! How did you get into bobsleigh and what was your sporting background?
TM: Ok, so I started with track and field from a very young age, about 6. I was an active child and always needed to be moving so it was easy for my parents to dump me in that sport. I was pretty good at the youth level too, at 18 I came 4th at the Junior World Championships.
Then after graduating high school and starting my senior career, I switched my training base to Halle. My new trainer was the father of a bobsleigh athlete so that was kind of my first contact with the sport. But my dreams were to do decathlon at the senior Olympic Games and World Championships. After about 2-3 years of training I realised it wasn’t meant to be - my hurdles were too bad!
After this I had some contact with a bobsleigh pilot called Oliver Haraβ who was also a decathlete. He was successful in youth bobsleigh and asked me if I’d like to try it out in 2010.
I said no!
I said I didn’t want to and that I wanted to focus on decathlon. Actually, that year I got a spot on the German senior team for a small competition against the USA out in San Diego. It was a lot of fun but my PB was 7707 points at that time and I needed about 8300+ to make the senior team at a major championships. After that season the pilot asked me again and I decided that I’d try it out.
3 months later he called me and asked if I could come and slide the German Championships with him. This was in January 2011. I pushed a few times and then just went for it! After that I said I’d like to go back and try another decathlon season but that I was very interested in doing bobsleigh in the winter 2011-12 season. It turned out my decathlon season was very bad! So, quite early on in 2012 I decided to switch fully to bobsleigh and had 2012-2013 as my first full season.
I started with Francesco for the first few races to help him out. That year for Junior Worlds, I was good enough for 4-man and we won which qualified us for the Senior World Championships in St Moritz where he won his first 2-man world title.
Credit IBSF: Thorsten trying to hug me after the final run
TBM: So that was when the journey with Friedrich started?
TM: Yeah 2012-13 was my first season with him and I stayed ever since. After that season I said “ok, I’m on your team now!” In the 2014 Olympic season I wanted to push him and I guess that was the beginning of our story.
TBM: Ah I forgot you went to Sochi...
TM: Yeh we went to Sochi. Francesco was favourite in 2-man as the World Champion but we were having a lot of problems that year with the FES sleds. They were very slow, and I think Francesco placed 6th. But he was still the best German in 2-man and we were 10th and 8th in the 4-man.
Credit Someone On Google: Thorsten is at the back somewhere
TBM: Unusual finish for you guys!
TM: Well not for me! It was my first Olympics and I was just in the 4-man. Plus, in 4-man at that time we needed luck to get medals. The experience was bigger for me and I learned a lot for the next year. 2015 I guess was the beginning of our 2-man legacy in Winterberg. That was where I won a world title with him for the first time.
Credit IBSF: Not Winterberg but a solid photo, Thorsten being allowed to touch the trophy
TBM: Winterberg was also your first track right?
Yes, my first track was Winterberg with Oliver Haraβ when he called me to help him out at the German Championships. I remember during my first-ever run thinking, “have we crashed or are we ok?!” I guess the same thing every bobsledder feels for their first time. It's a crazy sport, you can’t describe the feeling.
TBM: My first runs were down Igls and I hated it. Everyone said not to worry as it is the easiest track in the world - which didn’t help. All I thought was ‘shit, this is going to get worse'. I wish they’d just sent me down Altenberg.
Anyway, we digress, tell us about Pyeongchang DOUBLE gold...
TM: The two races were very different. When we started the 2-man race, Francesco and I were main favourites as we’d won everything that season. We had 3 global titles in a row together and were pushing at a high level. When I was warming up in Pyeongchang I knew nobody could beat us and we’d start 5 hundredths faster than everyone else. That was an awesome feeling.
But with our first run I remember thinking,
‘did he forget to drive or something?!’
It was crazy he had such big mistakes in corner 2-3 and wasn’t really able to figure it out. I couldn’t believe it as Francesco is such a good competitor, you know, he always brings his best for the main event of the season.
I think we didn’t talk for about 2 hours after. I had doping control which was probably a good thing so we didn’t have to speak for a bit! We were about 3 tenths behind Nico (Walther, retired German pilot) I think and in 5th place.