Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another Proposed Change From the FIS

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
If there is one thing the International Ski Federation (FIS) does not do, it is sit still. In the interest of keeping the sport as confusing as possible for the fans, the FIS makes changes almost every season. This particular change is still in the discussion stage and the full details have not yet been released to the public. It is too late for it to take effect this season, but if all goes well, we shall be seeing an interesting new change sometime in the next few seasons. The others have not reported this exciting new change, so we at the Blickbild are the first to publish this story. Here to talk with our intrepid reporter is our contact at the FIS, who wishes to go by the name of Bob. Let's find out what Bob has to say.

BB: Bob, please tell our readers about this exciting proposed change to ski racing.
Bob: Everyone knows that football (that's soccer to our US readers) is the most popular sport in the world. Football clubs like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid don't just have German or Spanish players. They have players from all over the world. What keeps football exciting and popular is that there is an opportunity for the players to change clubs. We at the FIS are talking about doing the same thing with ski racing. Instead of an Austrian racer always skiing for Austria, he can ski for any country.
BB: That sounds rather confusing. Isn't the idea that a ski racer competes for his country?
Bob: Of course the FIS's main priority is safety. But one of our other priorities is making our sport as confusing, yet exciting, as possible for the fans. The concept of an athlete competing for his country is becoming outmoded. Anyway, FIS researchers found out that fans cheer for specific athletes and not necessarily for countries. If an athlete changes countries it will not affect how the fans feel about him.
BB: Can you tell us about the proposal that the FIS is working on?
Bob: Remember that it has not been finalized yet. Right after the season ends, all of the skiers essentially become free agents. All of the racers, plus the ones coming back from an injury and those moving up from the Europa and Nor-Am Cups, will be released from their national teams. Then they will be chosen by each team to compete, similar to the American football or basketball draft system.
BB: So in effect you are saying that all of the skiers will be in one giant pool?
Bob: Correct! Now the real challenge begins. After the season ends, we look at the Nations Cup standings. The top team will choose two skiers from its country. Last season Austria won the Nations Cup. Therefore, Austria would choose two Austrian skiers for its team. Then the second place team, in this case Italy, picks two Italian skiers. We start with all of the teams with Nations Cup points, then we let the others choose two skiers from their countries.
BB: Can the nations choose any two skiers, or must it be one male and one female?
Bob: The countries can choose whoever they want. For example, Germany can pick Felix Neureuther and Maria Hoefl-Riesch. Or it could go with Maria and Viktoria Rebensburg or Felix and Fritz Dopfer. The choice is up to the individual teams.
BB: Is this to ensure that each nation actually has its some of its own skiers?
Bob: Exactly!
BB: What if a country only has one racer in the World Cup?
Bob: Then the country will only choose that racer in the first round.
BB: So now every team has two racers. There will still be a lot of racers left over. Do they get chosen or do they have to go back down to the Europa or Nor-Am Cup circuits?
Bob: Every skier in the World Cup, plus those moving up from the Europa and Nor-Am Cups, will be chosen by somebody. After the first round of choosing skiers, it is time for the second round.
BB: What happens in the second round?
Bob: The top five teams in the Nations Cup get the first picks, but with a twist. The top team, Austria, will get to choose any five racers, male or female, who are left after the first round. Italy, which was the second place team last season, would then pick four racers. The third place team, which was the USA, will choose three racers. France and Germany, who were fourth and fifth respectively, will each take two racers. Everyone else, from sixth place Sweden all the way down to the teams without any points, will pick one racer for its team. They can pick any available athlete.
BB: In the second round, do the teams also pick athletes from their countries or can they choose others?
Bob: They can take whoever they want. For example, let's say that the USA chose Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety in the first round. In the second round the USA can either take three other US skiers, or they can take the best available athletes from any other country. In the second and subsequent rounds, teams are not restricted to taking their countrymen. That is only in the first round.
BB: Do the top teams also get extra racers in the third and subsequent rounds?
Bob: No. They only get extras in the second round.
BB: Isn't that an unfair advantage for the stronger teams? Won't it make them even stronger and the others even weaker?
Bob: Look at the major European football leagues. The German Bundesliga is basically Bayern Munich, BVB Dortmund, and the rest. The Spanish league is Real Madrid, Barcelona, and the others. In England the Premier League consists of the two Manchester teams and everyone else. This is obviously what fans want, so we are making ski racing more like fooball. Anyway, smaller teams like Liechtenstein,  the Netherlands, and Great Britain, get the chance for having more athletes than they did under the old system. That gives them more Nations Cup points and a higher place in the next season's draft. It all evens out. Also, skiers who have been cast aside by their national teams, like Larisa Yurkiw, will be guaranteed a chance to compete in the World Cup.
BB: Will all of the athletes in the pool be chosen?
Bob: Yes. That is the beauty of this system.
BB: What if all of the racers are chosen before a round is complete?
Bob: Then the racer draft stops and all of the teams are set.
BB: Suppose a racer is unhappy with the team that picked him or her? Let's imagine that Austria takes Lindsey Vonn. When Lindsey finds out that she is on the Austrian team, she gets depressed because her new teammates don't like her. Can she change teams?
Bob: No. She will either have to compete for Austria for the season or sit out. It is in her best interest to compete. At the end of the season she has a good chance of being taken by another team that could make her happier.
BB: What about the Olympics or World Championships?
Bob: Just like in the World Cup football tournament, the racers will all compete for their national teams at those events. Let's say that Fritz Dopfer competes for Croatia in World Cup races. He will compete for Germany in the Olympics and World Championships.
BB: What do the athletes think of the possibility of changing teams every season?
Bob: We didn't ask them. Every time the FIS wants to change something, the athletes don't seem to like it. We have stopped asking the athletes what they think about new ideas because they are always such Negative Nancys. At the FIS our biggest priority is safety. But our other priority is always being right, even when everyone else thinks we're wrong.
BB: I see. Do you know if or when the FIS will implement this new system?
Bob: There are a lot of details which still need to be worked out. I don't forsee it coming into effect until the 2014/15 season at the very earliest.
BB: Bob, I want to thank you for your time. I'm sure that ski racing fans all over the world are looking forward to the day when they will see this new system in effect. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

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