It is a normal training day on the train in Altenberg at the end of October 2019. Nico Walther, one of the best bobsleigh pilots worldwide, grew up in Altenberg. He knows by heart the train on which speeds of up to 140 are reached. But in the exit of curve eleven, the four-man sled tips over without a recognizable driving error.
“It didn't feel right. As if someone grabs you by the baby and wants to pull you out, ”recruiter Eric Franke recalls. Being thrown out can prevent the quartet. But in addition to pilot Walther, who injured his thoracic spine, it also hits the 30 – year old Franke. The back and ribs are damaged.
2014 athlete Franke switched to bobsleigh
2014 the Berliner had switched from athletics to bobsleigh. A change that some athletes had successfully made before him. It should also be worthwhile for the former sprinter Franke, who went from BSC Sachsen Oberbärenburg to SC Potsdam last year.
He also got 2018 Olympic silver in Walther's four-man bob. He didn't fall until that Saturday in October 2019. “This made me a real bobsledder,” Franke takes it with humor. In bobsleigh there is a saying that you only really belong after a fall.
Four days later Franke trained again as best he could. “I rarely use the word, but it was torture.” Mostly because of the cracked rib. But he couldn't lose much time until the home world championship in – again – Altenberg.
Just a week before Christmas there was the reunion by train. Franke had worked with a psychologist before the fall and then worked with her on the events from autumn. “As a professional, you have to hide that. If that is kept in the back of the head, it is a hindrance. ”He felt tension when the bob was at the start of the training session. Don't be afraid. Everything worked.
After Christmas, Walther's crew qualified for the World Championships with a national elimination, but Franke still had to fight for his place. In mid-February, he was alone on a push-up line. Almost alone.
A short 100 kilo heavy weight that simulated the bob , was also there. 50 Push meter, full pulse. After that a top time came to light, Franke was there. “It was a very difficult season for us. Now we want a medal. The color doesn't matter, ”said the sports soldier before the start of the World Cup. The statement related to the four-man bob. Then Joshua Bluhm, Walther's pusher in a small sled, failed for a short time with back problems. Successor: Eric Franke.
For Walther / Franke, last weekend went extremely well, after three runs they were in second place. However, due to the difficult weather mix with rain, wind and high temperatures, the train became slower and slower. “A driver with good driving skills like me can show off his strengths on a fast track. It's different with Reif. The track is easy to grip and everyone can go down there easily, ”said Walther to the“ Sächsische Zeitung ”.
Franke still has a chance
In the end was only place for the fourth run 19 and fourth in the overall classification , eight hundredths of a second behind the bronze square. World Cup gold won for the sixth time in a row Francesco Friedrich. “Nobody can do anything for the weather,” said Friedrich comfortingly in the direction of his compatriots Walther and Franke.
After the messed up season with the heavy fall and the long break, the result was “acceptable and respectable”, but after the formidable starting position, it is a “mega disappointment”, Franke thinks.
There is still a chance. At the weekend in a four-man bob. This chance is not a bad one, believes Kevin Kuske. “I am firmly convinced that you can get a medal,” says Kuske, who together with Franke 2018 won silver in Pyeongchang and thereby rose to the most successful bobsleigh athlete in Olympic history. “It was a big deal for me and Eric was there. We went all the way together during the season. Something like this welds together. ”
Kuske is now a base coach in Potsdam, where there is a state-of-the-art launch track. “The conditions are perfect,” says Franke. He also benefits from Kuske's experience: “Kevin can pass on a lot.” Franke commutes between Potsdam and the Sportforum in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen during training.
Kuske is now a base coach
The special bob training then takes place in the strongholds of this sport in Saxony or Thuringia. 180 Franke was on the road last year, that sounds a lot. It was comparatively little for Franke. Before the Olympics it was 270 days. This left more time for the family this time, Franke has a three-year-old son.
“Eric always wants to develop bob technically and is very curious. That is what makes a great athlete. We can still expect a lot from him, ”says Kuske. In addition, Franke with his around 95 kilos distributed over 1, 91 meters “predestined to push”.
Kuske entered directly after Olympia 2018 back, with 39 years. Franke also has some plans, “but with scarce 40 I don't see myself more at Olympia. I tend to sit in the garden and start the grill ”. Short break. “Although that could be difficult at the time of the year when the Olympics take place.” But first he wants the medal on Sunday. It would be his second at a World Cup after bronze 2017 – and the reward after a very difficult season.