Foeldeak from Geretsried is an internationally recognised manufacturer of wrestling mats with a long tradition. As one of the four mat manufacturers licensed by the United World Wrestling Federation, Foeldeak ensures a soft surface and thus the safety and health of the wrestlers at national and international competitions.
Foeldeak has grown and created another mainstay in recent years, because mats are also needed in other sports and even in kindergartens, a soft surface and impact protection from Foeldeak is supposed to protect the smallest ones. With the takeover of the Vennekel company, Foeldeak brought one of the leading equipment suppliers for Track & Field into the company.
Foeldeak also shines when it comes to digitalisation, because since 2021, clients have been able to use special software to see a 3-D model during the planning phase that shows how the sports facility will look when finished. In addition, Foeldeak has specialised in the production of sports floors for training and competition facilities.
“The product range has become larger and more versatile, in the meantime not only wrestlers but also track and field athletes appreciate our quality work,” says managing director Norbert Hörr, who brought Michel Frauen, a former pole vaulting ace, into the management.
“The sport is always developing, we have to keep up, we must not stand still,” Norbert Hörr sends well-experienced and competent assembly teams into the training and competition halls to deliver quality work. With Michel Frauen, he has an excellent expert at his side who comes from athletics and is very well connected there.
“I was acting as a moderator at a pole vault meeting when Norbert Hörr approached me,” Michel Frauen remembers the first contact in 2017 very well. “He invited me to Geretsried, introduced the positions and I actually realised right away that it was a new challenge for me, especially since it meant I could stay in athletics,” Michel Frauen continues.
Three years later: … Vennekel’s turnover more than doubled, the products got a new, adapted look and in sales there was a large network to fall back to, they had reached the top in athletics. “Our products have an outstanding quality, which is gratefully accepted by the customers, the portfolio was constantly expanded,” Michel Frauen is happy about the extremely positive development in this division. And so the offer from Norbert Hörr that Michel Frauen could join the company as managing director and partner – and later take over the company – did not come out of the blue.
The 36-year-old began his sporting career at the age of four in children’s gymnastics. This later turned into artistic gymnastics, where Michel Frauen won the German championship title at the age of 14 and silver in the German all-around two years later. To continue his competitive career in gymnastics, he would have had to go to the sports school in Kiel, which was simply too far for him. At the age of 16, when his former gymnastics coach Harald Kolbow referred him to the Schwerin pole vault coach Andreas Rändler, Michel Frauen switched from gymnastics to athletics and discovered pole vaulting for himself. “At that time, there was a strong training group in Schwerin with many top performers and good coaches,” the talented vaulter sensed his chance and even switched to the sports boarding school in Schwerin.
Things progressed rapidly for Michel Frauen, and his good gymnastics training also benefited him in the pole vault, where he reached a height of 5.55 metres.
Michel Frauen passed his Abitur in Schwerin and, after a voluntary social year, began studying (sports economics / management) at the German Sports University in Cologne and then trained from then on at the world-renowned athletics performance centre in Leverkusen. “Pole vaulting is not limited to big track and field meetings, but there were also individual starts in various cities such as in Trier in front of the Porta Nigra. During the last 3 years of his active time, Michel Frauen was already looking for further professional perspectives and helped to organise vaulting meetings where this sport was presented by world-class athletes.
For some time, Michel Frauen also improved his finances as a golf ball diver. I’m sorry, as what? “Yes, on many golf courses there are waters as boundaries, or obstacles, where many golf balls land, I dived for these balls, recovered them, cleaned them and sold them again,” Michel Frauen laughs. After all, a new ball costs over €6 new, the divers offer their balls for up to €2, a lucrative idea imported from the USA.
But then Michel Frauen turned back to athletics after all, with the sale of sports equipment, especially poles for pole vaulting, he came back to his sport, athletics, where he also acted as a moderator for major vaulting events due to his network.
This is where things came full circle when Norbert Hörr was able to recruit the enterprising sports manager for the Foeldeak company, especially for the Vennekel division. In the meantime, Michel Frauen has also arrived at the wrestlers: “… a very special sport, with lovely people who live for their sport,” says the new manager Michel Frauen, alongside Norbert Hörr, a praise that the wrestlers are also happy to return to Foeldeak.
The interview was conducted by Jörg Richter from Ringsport-Magazin.