Markus Eisenbichler: Why I feel like Aladdin on his flying carpet

It may have taken Germany's top ski jumping star time to mature but with years of experience, and the backing of footballing legend Thomas Müller, he's only getting better. 

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Weightlessness and freedom.

Those are the two joys of ski jumping that keep Germany’s high-flyer Markus Eisenbichler coming back each time for more.

Hooked on a sensation only achieved by defying nature’s laws, just describing the feeling of being calmly suspended above the earth for a few breath-taking moments has the 30-year-old scrabbling for comparisons:

“You feel like Aladdin on the carpet,” the 30-year-old said ahead of the Ski Flying World Championships in Planica last year. “You don’t think much, you just enjoy flying and you don’t want that feeling to go away. You will forget all your worries and fears that overwhelm you in real life.”

Knowing that is what the six-time world champion experiences every time he takes flight goes some way to explaining the tenacity that has driven ‘Eisei’ to become one of his sport’s greatest challengers.

It took the German several years before one breakout season changed the course of his competitive trajectory for good.

As the 2021/2022 ski jumping season rumbles on get to know the man obsessed by football legend Thomas Müller and J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy epic, Lord of the Rings.

The rise of Markus Eisenbichler: from the ruins of injury to one of Germany's best

When Eisenbichler landed a 135.5m jump at the 2019 Seefeld Nordic World Ski Championships he let out an almighty roar.

He hadn’t yet seen his score, but the German already knew that he had staved off his challengers, long-time friend Karl Geiger and Killian Peier, to finally clinch an individual world championship title.

The 2018/2019 season had been a long-awaited breakthrough year for Eisenbichler.

Just before the competition in Austria, where he would add another two gold medals to his tally thanks to victories in the team and mixed team event, the German had got a taste for success at the Four Hills Tournament.

Two consecutive second place finishes at Oberstdorf and Garmisch-Partenkirchen lifted him to a second-place overall finish, coming in just behind Japans Kobayashi Ryoyu

Before then, however, Eisenbichler had only known setbacks when it came to decisive moments.

Two disappointing runs at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang saw the ski jumper excluded from the German men’s team event, which consequently saw him miss out on an Olympic silver medal.

Markus Eisenbichler
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Eisenbichler’s journey to the top of Germany’s ski jumping rungs has been largely the result of his maturation as an athlete, reflected by his duration in the sport and his improved results over the years.

That desire to continue developing and refining his art-form was triggered by a significant training run crash back in 2012. The man from Seigsdorf broke several of his thoracic vertebrae:

“I lost control when I took off,” Eisenbichler recalls speaking to “I only saw the ground and then hit the slope with my head and my back.”

The fall, which he admits he got off lightly given that he was only hospital bound for a month, altered him. Afterwards, while recovering he reflected: “It’s a dangerous sport after all. But if you love it, you have to get up again,” continued Eisenbichler.

When he did return, he made a conscious effort to no longer just rely on his talent, but to work hard and give 100 percent in training; he knew he could never afford to do that again.

Markus Eisenbichler: Guilty of a few “brain farts”

Belief, in sport, goes a long way.

But for several years before Eisenbichler’s breakthrough he lacked just that.

It wasn’t until his emphatic winning displays back in 2019 in Austria that the ski jumper underwent an important psychological shift.

When he walked away with his three world championship medals, just weeks after coming close to one of ski jumping’s most revered prizes a month earlier, no one was more delighted for the athlete than his national coach at the time, Werner Schuster.

“It took him a while,” Schuster said to Bild on Eisenbichler’s rise. “He’s an extreme guy. He always has his own ideas that you have to help him with.”

Those mental apses stemmed from what he believed was Eisenbichler’s own self-image.

Explaining in more detail in an interview with Spiegel, Schuster said: “When you suddenly sit up with the last five that you saw on TV a few years ago, you first have to trust yourself that you can beat them. It’s an unconscious sensation.”

“It’s not so easy to influence this self-image. It’s a process and doesn’t work over night. It takes a while before a jumper says: I’ve worked well, I have the skills and when I’m at the top, it’s the most normal thing in the world.”

For the longest time, Schuster maintains that the German was his own worst enemy; his lack of self-belief stifled him. But once Eisenbichler realised what he was capable of, he never looked back: “It just took time before he dared to say: Markus Eisenbichler, world champion, that’s no surprise, it sounds good.”

Markus Eisenbichler: challenged by Thomas Müller

When Bavaria’s ski jumping son is not launching himself off hills, he typically enjoys the calls of mountain life including climbing, hiking and ski touring.

One of his greatest passions, above all else, is Bayern Munich Football club, namely German football legend Thomas Müller:

“He likes his homeland and is happy when he plays football well,” said the ski jumper to the Willingen Ski Club. “And he makes no bones about it, if things don’t go well, he says so – and I like that.”

Just after Eisenbichler banked his second podium at the Four Hills back in 2019 he was the talk of his country, so much so, he even caught the eye of his favourite footballing star. Müller tweeted his joy for his compatriot and even invited him to a charity game of Schafkopf via social media.

“He has to dress really warmly, I’ll take it off, he has money“ said ever-competitive high-flyer when he was informed of his invitation.

As for what awaits him in the future the German ski jumping star knows to take each day as it comes; he learnt that after his dramatic fall nearly nine years ago:

“I am a professional and want to be successful,” Eisenbichler reflected in an interview with Bild. “But it's [ski jumping] just a snapshot. Become a legend, fame, honour… I want a house with a sauna.”

When asked what he does to unwind Eisenbichler shared that he watches the Lord of the Rings films: “They never give up,” he notes.

It seems the two have something in common.


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