Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Quotas For Ski Teams At World Cup Races

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 The International Olympic Committee (IOC) proposed limiting the number of athletes that a ski team can send to the Olympic Games. During the fall meeting in Zurich, the International Ski Federation (FIS) discussed the IOC's proposal and decided to implement its own quota system for World Cup races. We sent one of our intrepid reporters to Zurich to find out more about this proposal and how it would work. Our reporter was able to talk with Bob, our inside man at the FIS, about this new proposal and how it would affect World Cup races. Let's find out what Bob has to say.

BB: Bob, please tell our readers about this proposal from the FIS.
Bob: The FIS wants to limit the number of athletes from each country who can earn points in World Cup races. Starting in the 2014/15 season, only two racers per country will be able to earn points in races.
BB: That does not make sense. If there are a lot of Austrians in the top 30 of a men's downhill or slalom race, they should all get points.
Bob: That way of thinking is very old. At the FIS we want to help racers from countries like Fiji or Equatorial Guinea earn World Cup points.
BB: The skiers in the World Cup earned their positions by doing well in their continental cups or by earning enough points in FIS races. The ones who place in the top 30 should be rewarded, no matter their nationality.
Bob: Again with your old way of thinking. Safety is the number one priority at the FIS. But so is increasing our fan base and TV ratings. The best way to increase our worldwide audience is to make it easier for racers from non-traditional ski nations to earn World Cup points or even podium places. People from those countries, who never watched a ski race before, will be glued to their TV sets watching their countrymen compete for World Cup points. Think of the ratings!
BB: Our intrepid researchers talked with ski fans and asked them about this proposal. They were overwhelmingly against it. Ski fans want to see the best in the world racing against each other. They would rather see the 18th ranked Austrian racer than the number one from Tahiti. 
Bob: They will get used to it. Our goal is to level the playing field for smaller countries and give them a chance to experience World Cup glory.
BB: Will each team be allowed a certain number of participants in each race?
Bob: Each country will be allowed up to 6 racers, with the home country allowed up to 3 more. But only the top two from each country will earn points.
BB: I'm sorry, but that makes no sense. If three Austrians or Italians sweep the podium in a race, then the 3rd place skier should also get World Cup points and prize money. He or she earned those points and money through having the third-fastest time.
Bob: There will no longer be podium sweeps under our new system. In technical races only the top two finishers from the first run will go on to the second.
BB: What about speed and super-combined races?
Bob: In downhill and Super-G races, everyone can compete, but only the top two from each country will earn points. The others from that country can think of the race as extra training. Super-combined races will continue to be run the usual way. But only the top two racers from each nation will be eligible for points.
BB: Okay, let's say you have a slalom race. After taking the top two racers from each country, there are only 21 racers. Will some countries be allowed extra racers to get to 30 athletes for a complete second run?
Bob: That's a very good question. In that situation, we will take the best athletes of who is left after the top two finishers from each country. For example, we have 21 racers who qualified for the second run of a slalom or giant slalom. We will then take the best of who is left for those other nine places. There could be a situation where Austria, France, and Sweden have more than two skiers in the second run of a technical race. But only the top two from those countries will earn World Cup points.
BB: What is the FIS's logic for this two racer per country rule?
Bob: The racers from the non-traditional skiing nations can't compete with the powerhouse countries like Austria, Italy, France, or Switzerland and it makes them very sad. At the FIS, safety is our biggest priority. But one of our other priorities is making sure that all of the racers feel good about themselves. We learned our lesson last season, when Lindsey Vonn came out and said that she suffered from depression. The FIS doesn't want anymore ski racers to be depressed.
BB: Why not just give everyone a trophy for participation and not have any winners at all? That's what children's sports leagues do in the States. That way everyone can get something for being in a race.
Bob: We looked into doing that, but those whiny Austrians seem to think that winning should be rewarded.
BB: Have you asked the athletes how they feel about this proposal?
Bob: Of course not. Ever since we changed the giant slalom skis a few years ago, the athletes have been against everything we are trying to accomplish. We gave up on asking the athletes how they feel about any changes because they always have such a doom and gloom attitude. You'd think they would be happy about skiers from more countries being able to participate in races and having the chance to get points or podium places.
BB: Do you think that there will be a mass exodus of ski racers from the big countries like Austria, Switzerland, France, and Italy to smaller countries?
Bob: That could be possible. But the FIS has a rule that a racer must be a resident of a country for two years before competing for it.
BB: Do you think that the FIS will change that rule? Then we could see someone like Max Franz competing for Turkmenistan instead of Austria right away. Max could earn World Cup points instead of racing and getting shut out by staying with Austria.
Bob: Who is going to believe that someone with a name like Max Franz is from Turkmenistan?
BB: We have racers with German names, like Siegmar Klotz and Christof Innerhofer, competing for Italy.
Bob: You have a point.
BB: Our intrepid research team found out through focus group testing that fans cheer for the athlete rather than for the country. Ski fans would cheer for Max Franz whether he was from Austria or Zambia.
Bob: But that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish. People will soon realize that racers who compete for countries that nobody can find on a map are really Austrians, Swiss, French, or Italian. If Max Franz competes for Zambia, and places 3rd in a race behind two real Austrians, it will be the same as an Austrian sweep of the podium. The little countries are back where they started.
BB: Aren't your worried that the World Cup will descend into mediocrity because of letting skiers from Upper Volta into the second run of a slalom instead of the French?
Bob: Hey, wait a minute! I don't think that Upper Volta is a real country.
BB: It used to be. Now it's Burkina Faso.
Bob: To answer your question, no I don't think that the World Cup will become mediocre. Maybe the racers from Botswana aren't as fast as the Austrians. But we will introduce more people around the world to Alpine ski racing and increase our worldwide TV ratings. In addition, there will be more racers with high self esteem. What more could ski racing fans want?
BB: To see the very best in the world, even if they are only from a few countries. (short pause) Well, it looks like we are out of time. Thank you for your time. As always, you are a very interesting interview subject. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our intrepid reporters and researchers don't get participation trophies. They have to earn their intrepidness awards.

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