As a speed skater she won everything, now Anni Friesinger-Postma plays ice hockey. She tells about it in the winter sports podcast – and explains the misery in German speed skating.
sports show: Anni Friesinger-Postma, we were really looking forward to today’s interview in advance. Does it happen to you often that people react so positively to you?
Anni Friesinger-Postma: Yes, still. But it does surprise me – I stopped competitive sports in 2010. It’s nice that young people remember me that way too.
sports show: You are a three-time Olympic champion and 16-time individual and all-around world champion. Are these successes that you still like to look back on today?
Friesinger-Postma: In any case. I see it as a gift that I was able to turn my hobby and my passion into a career. I trained hard and was rewarded with success. It was a nice and cool time, but also very hard because you had to train a lot.
sports show: Do you forget the pain in training when the results are there?
Friesinger-Postma: Yes totally. It’s really that when you’ve trained so hard and the road has been rocky and you’ve suffered setbacks through injuries, it’s the great reward – that makes victory all the sweeter and makes you forget the anguish.
sports show: You also had to end your career because of cartilage damage in your right knee. What was it like for you back then, when you realized: My body can’t take it anymore?
Friesinger-Postma: I already knew from several operations that my right knee is my weak point. But the preparation for the season was great, training times were good, I was fully trained and then the injury came. There were already indications that the cartilage was slowly being used up. Bone rubs against bone. During the rehab I then already trained and reflected on what it is still worth to me and how far I can still go with my body.
sports show: You live alternately in Salzburg and the Netherlands with your daughters and your husband. I saw on social media that you are making your comeback on the ice.
Friesinger-Postma: It wasn’t planned at all. My daughters play ice hockey, both in the Bundesliga. An ice hockey mom asked me if I wouldn’t like to try it too. Well, I gave it a try and thought it was pretty cool. Real fun. I don’t have to think much about skating, I can, but stick handling – phew – and offside, that nasty blue line… There’s so much to consider, but it’s really fun.
sports show: About the German speed skating: The successes of the women of the German speed skating team have been a long time coming.
Friesinger-Postma: Unfortunately, the German women are wasteland. It doesn’t look good there. It’s even better for men. We now have good sprinters, we have inline skater Felix Rijhnen, who has already won. And with Moritz Klein we have a sprinter who is always in the top 8. That gives hope for more.
sports show: Back to the women. Do you have an explanation for the lack of success?
Friesinger-Postma: I can say what’s wrong. We have wonderful ice rinks – in Erfurt, Inzell and Berlin. We have the opportunity to do dual training with the Bundeswehr or the Federal Police. It’s maybe a bit like biathlon. That you have had a number of athletes at the highest level over many years and have rested on your laurels a little. In speed skating, one has also overlooked the fact that one should think outside the box – that one also looks at the inline skaters, at ice hockey. Other countries do that too. And the structures in the association are … difficult. This also makes speed skating unattractive for young people.
sports show: What exactly has to happen?
Friesinger-Postma: When I look at the German championship, I’m amazed that so few people even start. With us it was like that, whoever made the time norms, as a junior, was also allowed to take part. That’s important, and that’s how I grew up: when I was of the right level, I was allowed to mingle with the old ladies, learn and compete with them. I miss that a bit.
sports show: So the classic reward principle?
Friesinger-Postma: Yes, you learn through the events. The competition is the opportunity where you apply what you have practiced a thousand times – and you only get better by doing so. Then comes the nervousness, the concentration, the opponents. If you’re just training and not competing at all, you really don’t know where you stand.
sports show: But Germany used to be big in ice skating. It sounds a bit like being ignored. Or is that too harsh?
Friesinger-Postma: No, it also takes success to get TV time. That’s the way it is. There has to be an interest from the audience. We speed skaters have often benefited from the fact that our events could take place and skiing had to be postponed. But you also need a face that succeeds. One with corners and edges. What people identify with, sympathize when things aren’t going so well and cheer for victories and medals. That’s missing now.
sports show: You’ve been such a face of speed skating and now you’ve gotten an offer from the federation, but you turned the federation down…
Friesinger-Postma: Yes, what kind of offer was that? That wasn’t an offer. Unfortunately, we didn’t part on good terms either. You can put all that aside, but in my opinion so much work is needed to restructure everything. Where do you want to start there? It’s a very lengthy process and I definitely don’t see myself there.
sports show: You mentioned structural aspects. Joel Dufter, for example, ended his career at the age of 27 because, among other things, his trainer was no longer employed.
Friesinger-Postma: Danny Leger’s firing was a scandal. He raised so many youngsters in Inzell, not just Joel Dufter. Wrong decisions were made that ruined many careers.
sports show: Would it also be something for you in the long term to be a trainer on the ice?
Friesinger-Postma: no I did it so intensively with 20 years of World Cup and World Championship circus. In order to be a really active trainer, one would have to refresh one’s knowledge, attend courses and workshops. No, I also like being a mother at the moment.