Things are really tough for Markus Eisenbichler right now. While the World Cup team around his friend Karl Geiger starts the Christmas week full of anticipation, the six-time ski jumping world champion has to get used to his role as a reservist.
Geiger, Andreas Wellinger and Pius Paschke have serious chances of Germany's first Four Hills Tournament victory since 2002. That doesn't apply to the 32-year-old Eisenbichler, because he currently can't keep up even in the second-class Continental Cup.
As if the sporting crisis wasn't challenging enough, the talented pilot from Siegsdorf in Bavaria also gets verbally abused shortly before the festival of love. At the weekend in Engelberg, national coach Stefan Horngacher was surprisingly clear about what he thought of Eisenbichler's development.
"It's incomprehensible to me that he doesn't bring anything together," said Horngacher, who was able to count on Eisenbichler as a top performer for years. This is not the case at all this winter. "He often covers up a lot of things. We have to talk about where the journey is going. Performance counts, that's just how it is. It doesn't matter how many medals you have hanging at home." Horngacher did not offer the veteran any prospect of returning, and public words of encouragement and appreciation were also sought in vain.
Debates about training
Eisenbichler's break-in comes relatively unexpectedly. In the fall, he was still one of the hopes of the German team with his aggressive jumping style. The German ski jumping legend Sven Hannawald reacts with incomprehension. "From the outside, I really don't understand what the problem is and why he's dismantling himself like that. He's crapping out in competition. These are personal things that leave you with a lot of question marks from the outside," Hannawald told the German Press Agency.
Eisenbichler recently came 14th, 23rd, 16th and 26th in four competitions in the Continental Cup. For Horngacher, this is the result of various difficulties. "He had a bit too many problems in the summer: with his knee, he was constantly injured, and also with his training. We also advised him against that, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. He definitely wanted to go through with it."
Eisenbichler took a few liberties. “He probably made a few mistakes too,” Horngacher noted critically. Eisenbichler is with the federal police.
"In his own world"
From a sporting perspective, Eisenbichler's absence is hardly noticeable at the moment. Karl Geiger had to look for a new roommate; the team's internal Schafkopf round is becoming increasingly difficult without professionals like Eisenbichler. "We actually have a lot of contact, we always write a lot and talk on the phone. You're not just roommates, you also develop a friendship over the years," said Geiger, who now shares a room with youngster Philipp Raimund.
It is not expected that Eisenbichler will return to the A team quickly. Even before his crisis, the Bavarian, who was somewhat unpredictable at times, spoke openly about thoughts of ending his career. "I think for Markus it depends specifically on the character and how he deals with the situation. He has always been in his own world, so he is not comparable," said Hannawald.