Athlete of the Week: Johannes Rydzek (GER)
It is a known fact in the sports world that bad luck and good fortune, defeat and triumph can often be quite close to each other and our athlete of this week is definitely proof of that: Johannes Rydzek. The 22-year-old German went from being the unlucky fellow who crashed in one of the last turns before the Olympic finish line to the shining star of the Lahti weekend, the first World Cup competitions after Sochi.
With the individual win and rank two in the Team Sprint together with Olympic Champion Eric Frenzel, Rydzek was the most successful Nordic Combined athlete in Lahti, a place that the resident of Oberstdorf seems to like, having celebrated his first World Cup victory here in 2011, claiming another podium finish in 2012, a Team Sprint win in 2013 and now in 2014 two podiums on two days. Perfect prospects for the World Championships which will take place in Lahti in 2017, as fans already remarked on Rydzek's facebook page.
With a success rate like that, there will probably be only one venue which the German likes even better: his hometown of Oberstdorf where he managed to win at least one Summer Grand Prix competition for the past four years as well as the Team event this winter. But also in his free time, Rydzek loves his hometown, making use of the location in the Bavarian Alps to go on extended ski tours or climb 11 mountains over 4000 metres in 2012.
What makes Rydzek into an outstanding young Nordic Combined athlete is his killer instinct on the cross-country track. Being able to read a race and an opponent well, he knows to ski with the big names of the discipline and then overtake shortly before the finish, taking the honours away without so much of a moment of hesitation as Magnus Moan in Seefeld had to see.
When one of his strategies or jumps do not work out, Rydzek is also known to show a bit of temper as it just happened in Lahti when Joergen Graabak was not allowing any last minute overtaking in the last turn and Rydzek kicked the snow in frustration after the finish line. But in spite of all impulsive emotions, the German is usually fast to bounce back to his usual open and friendly character and analyse the situation with a level head: "The Norwegians were really strong, especially Joergen (Graabak). On the final lap I actually felt good and wanted to attack in the last turn but it was just too narrow and the speed was too high to overtake in the finish line sprint," he said after the race, but was more happy to have won a second place than to have lost the first one half an hour after his frustrations had to find a way out.
Like Graabak, Rydzek is another athlete who now has all the time in the world to grow, gain experience and add to his collection of merits before the next title events come, promising more heated duels between the two athletes. And with his killer instinct and maybe a little bit of luck on his side, Rydzek definitely is a fixed name on the "to watch" list for Nordic Combined's future stars.