Friday, December 26, 2014

Lindsey Vonn Blames Val d'Isere Course Slippers for Fall

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Last Sunday in Val d'Isere Lindsey Vonn blamed poor course slipping for her fall in the Super-G race, which prevented her from tying Annemarie Moser-Proell's record for most World Cup wins. She even complained to FIS women's race director Atle Skaardal about it. The others have reported this story, which we would normally avoid like a vegetarian would a steak house. But we have our unique perspective on it. One of our intrepid reporters scored an interview with Mr. Skardaal. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: What was your reaction to Lindsey Vonn's complaint about the course not being slipped properly?
Skardaal: Before or after I finished laughing?
BB: It looks like you just answered the question. Did any of the other racers mention that the course was improperly slipped?
Skardaal: No. In fact, the race winner, Elisabeth Goergl, said that the course was great and that the course slippers did an excellent job. So did Anna Fenninger, who was second. Nobody else said anything about the quality of the course slipping.
BB: In your opinion, was the course slipped correctly?
Skardaal: I would have to say yes. We have people slipping the course between racers and also during the TV breaks. They want to ensure that each racer has as clean a course as possible.
BB: Do you think that the quality of course slippers now is worse now than in the past?
Skardaal: Absolutely not!  Course slippers now are just as good, if not better, than those in the past. They must meet extremely high standards to work a World Cup race.
BB: Going back to Ms. the World Championships in Schladming last year, she said that she landed in a patch of soft snow after a jump and injured her knee. In Val d'Isere she  hit a patch of soft snow, which made her fall, slide out, and bruise her elbow. Both times it was during a Super-G race. Do you sense a pattern here?
Skardaal: What do you mean?
BB: The ski world now knows about the Stone of Doom, which caused Ted Ligety to have a 10th place finish in Soelden. (see this story ). In addition to this magic rock, is there also a  patch of soft snow with super powers which travels from place to place and specifically targets Lindsey Vonn during Super-G races?
Skardaal: It does seem coincidental that she is the only one who has commented about patches of soft snow in both Schladming and Val d'Isere when nobody else did. But I don't know of any wandering patches of soft snow. Anyway, the course slippers in Schladming were Austrian and the ones in Val d'Isere were French, so I don't think that there was any conspiracy.
BB: Do you think that you will require the course workers to slip a wider part of the piste so that Ms. Vonn does not hit patches of soft snow when she goes out of bounds?
Skardaal: No. Our course workers are only required to slip the part of the course between the blue lines.
BB: I see. Now let's suppose for a moment that Ms. Vonn has a disability which causes her hit patches of soft snow that nobody else can find. Wouldn't you and your colleagues at the FIS do everything they possibly could to accommodate her special needs? Workplaces are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees.
Skardaal: Lindsey Vonn is not disabled, so no, we don't have to make any special accommodations. She went outside the course line and hit some soft snow. It can happen to anyone. We will not change our methods of slipping courses just to please someone who lost a race.
BB: In other words, you will not slip the whole ski run? You will just have the course workers slip the part between the blue lines?
Skardaal: That is correct. Maybe she needs to pay attention to the tricky gates during the course inspection. Then she would stay on course between the lines.
BB: Speaking of course inspection, Ms. Vonn also mentioned that the Super-G racers only had one chance to inspect the course in Val d'Isere. How many course inspections do the athletes normally have for a race?
Skardaal: One.
BB: You just said the racers only get one course inspection. Did I hear you correctly?
Skardall: Yes you did. They have one course inspection.
BB: Wait a minute! Then why would Ms. Vonn say that she only had one chance to inspect the course before the race?
Skardaal: Who knows? Lizz Goergl was not upset about only having one course inspection. In fact, she took the full time to thoroughly inspect the tricky gates and it paid off for her. Most of the others also did a full inspection. It is a racer's responsibility to inspect the course and know where to speed up or slow down. There is plenty of time even with only one inspection.
BB: So the FIS is not going to increase the number of course inspections for races?
Skardaal: No. We have always gone with one course inspection per speed race and that system has worked very well for many years. Racers in the technical disciplines also get one inspection per run to check out the course setting.
BB: What if it turns out that Ms. Vonn is a slow learner and needs more than one inspection? Doesn't the FIS need to accommodate her learning disability?
Skardaal: She does not have a learning disability. She may be geographically challenged, but that applies to most Americans. But not knowing how to find a country on a map does not allow an athlete to have extra course inspections. Otherwise, you will have every athlete in the World Cup pretending that they can't find Tajikistan or Equatorial Guinea on a map just to get extra inspections. Then they will never get the chance to actually race because they will spend the whole day inspecting the course.
BB: We noticed you and Lindsey chatting for quite a long time. Was there anything else that she was upset about besides the course slipping and only having one inspection?
Skardaal: Yes. She received a rather low artistic score for her fall and was very unhappy about it.
BB: Our records show that she received an artistry score of 6.2 for her fall. It did seem a bit low, but maybe you can explain it.
Skardaal: I reviewed the scores from the judges and they were all fair. Her scores from the six artistry judges were 6.4, 6.4, 6.3, 6.1, 6.0 and 6.0. One of the 6.4s and 6.0s was thrown out and the average of the four middle scores was 6.2. As you can see from the closeness of the scores, there was agreement and the head judge did  not have to get involved. The US and Slovakian judges gave her the 6.4s, the French judge gave the 6.3, the Italian judge gave the 6.1, and the Swiss and Hungarian judges gave the 6.0s.
BB: What were her deductions?
Skardaal: She incurred the standard out of bounds deduction of 0.5 points and the standard 1.0 deduction for a fall. There was a deduction for lack of originality and also one for not getting up quickly when there was no leg injury.
BB: Evidently she tried to appeal for some originality bonus because her fall was like a baseball slide. 
Skardaal: Have you ever watched baseball? It makes curling and snooker seem like the most exciting sports ever. The judges were obviously not impressed by Ms. Vonn trying to bring baseball into skiing. The artistry judges prefer a more classical or graceful style of falling like Patrick Kueng in Beaver Creek or Max Franz at the Olympics, or something very original like Felix Neureuther's shoulder roll in Levi in 2013. Spins and one-ski work get bonus points. Sliding on your hip doesn't.
BB: Our intrepid researchers also heard that Ms. Vonn was traumatized by the score of 6.2. If you multiply that number by 10, it equals 62, which is Annemarie Moser-Proell's record for World Cup wins by a woman. She is prone to depression and that number could have set her over the edge because she fell and failed to tie Moser-Proell's record. Couldn't the judges have adjusted their scores slightly to prevent this? After all, Ms. Vonn's records are her legacy and are the only way she will be remembered 
Skardaal: Our judges are fair and neutral. They don't make adjustments to favor one ski racer over another. If Lindsey Vonn is going to fall, she should do so in a more graceful and original manner. Then she will get a higher score. But it will really take a lot to match the record scores of Felix Neureuther and Patrick Kueng. Felix and Patrick set the bar so high, I don't think that anyone will be able to catch them.
BB: Wow, you really are harsh! But I guess you must be that way to be fair to everyone. One more question. Did you also tell Ms. Vonn that her dog Leo could not be in the photo with her cow?
Skardaal: I had nothing to do with that. You'll have to ask the Val d'Isere race officials.
BB: We will have to do that. (short pause) Did you tell Ms. Vonn that you would take care of her complaints about the course slipping, inspection, and low artistry score?
Skardaal: I had to. Even though I believe her complaints came about because she was looking for excuses for failing to stay on course, I must still listen to them. I also need to think about future repercussions and tread carefully. The last time Lindsey Vonn landed in some soft snow, she threatened to go to war with Slovenia. A herd of elephants almost starved to death and 25,000 men from the first wave who tried to invade Slovenia disappeared somewhere between Moscow and Siberia. They still have not been found. (see this story)
BB: And they may never be found. Well,  it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and your insight into course slipping and inspections. I'm sure it was just as interesting for our readers as it was for me. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters can conduct interviews with zero prior inspections.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Not Your Usual Ski Race Prediction Game

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Our intrepid reporters don't seem to be as productive as they were in the past. We sent a team of our intrepid researchers to figure out why. Suddenly, our research team also took a big turn for the worse and stopped coming up with information for the reporters. What was going on? We finally hired an independent research team, even though their researchers are not nearly as intrepid as ours. But what choice did we have? It turns out that our reporters and researchers were very busy..............inventing and playing games! We would normally not put up with that nonsense because our employees are being paid to report the things that the others don't dare to print, not play games. But in this case, the game that they came up with was so good, we plan to ask others in the ski world to play it starting next season. Here to explain how this game works is one of our reporters, who was also one of the inventors. She wanted to be called Mary for this interview. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB: Tell our readers about this game. 
Mary: Each player starts off with 10 racers--
BB: Whoa! That sounds just like Fantasy Ski Racer.
Mary: No, it is different. At the beginning of the season each player picks 10 racers in each discipline. For example, for the men's slalom a player will pick 10 slalom racers. He will keep these 10 racers for the whole season.
BB: Are the players supposed to figure out who will finish first through tenth? It seems that you are copying Fantasy Ski Racer.
Mary: Not at all. Our game has a twist. Of the 10 racers that a player picks for the season, at least two must be ranked outside the top 30 on the World Cup Start List (WCSL) in that particular discipline, and at least two must be ranked from 16 to 30 on the WCSL. But you don't pick which racer will be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. 
BB: So what do you do?
Mary: Wait until the race is over. If the racers that you chose make it into the top 10, you get points. You get 10 points for 1st place, 5 for 2nd and 3rd places, 3 for 4th and 5th places and 1 for places 6 to 10. But if one of the racers ranked 16 to 30 is in the top 10, the points are doubled. You get triple points if one of your athletes outside the top 30 makes it into the top 10. 
BB: I see. What happens if one of your athletes is injured or changes position on the WCSL?
Mary: If one of the athletes gets injured, you are allowed to get another one. Also, if you have an athlete ranked outside the top 15 or 30 who moves up, you must pick another one so that you have at least two from those positions and get rid of one that you already have.
BB: I see. It sounds pretty straightforward, getting points for how well the racers you picked perform. But I see one drawback. If you are picking and keeping track of 10 racers in each discipline for both men and women, that is 100 racers. That seems awfully complex!
Mary: We will have full-time game administrators who will keep track of the points and the racers' rankings and players' points. They will have all of the data on a computer and will make backups.
BB: I hope they're not using their work computers.
Mary: Uh......of course not.
BB: So that's all there is to it? Pick a pool of 10 racers and you get points for their performance.
Mary: No. There are also some bonuses and penalties.
BB: Bonuses? That sounds like the PPP game in one of the big Facebook ski racing groups. And penalties?
Mary:  We have both bonuses and penalties. I'll talk about the bonuses first. The first one is the artistry bonus. If one of your 10 racers gets the most artistry points for a fall or unique move, you get 5 points. It doesn't matter if they finish or not. Let's say that you had Patrick Kueng as one of your 10 racers for men's downhill. Even though he didn't finish the downhill race in Beaver Creek, he got the top marks for artistry. Anyone who had him as one of his 10 racers would get an extra 5 points added to his score.
BB: Interesting. That is one way to get some extra points in your game.
Mary: The next bonus is for racers who come from a team without a witch doctor.
BB: If you have an Austrian as one of your 10 racers, you would automatically get a bonus if they had a top 10 finish. 
Mary: No. Austria is the exception because that team is so good it doesn't need a witch doctor. But if any of your racers from a team without a witch doctor finish in the top 10, you get a two point bonus per racer. I know that the USA doesn't have a witch doctor because they don't believe in voodoo. So any US racer in the top 10 gives the player a two point bonus. It's the same for other teams without witch doctors.
BB: What about teams that are under a witch doctor's curse? Sweden was under a curse last season for kidnapping Germany's witch doctor. 
Mary: Hmmmm....we didn't think of that situation. I'll have to meet with the others who helped to create our game and see how that fits in. I would imagine it would be the same as not having a witch doctor. I'll have to get back to you on that one. But the third bonus is for racers from teams who have trainers from the new Austrian Convicts to Coaches program.  (see this story)
BB: That sounds like a rule that would benefit the USA. They seem to hire a lot of Austrian and Swiss trainers with questionable pasts. 
Mary: They do. But everyone deserves a second chance in life. For every athlete in the top 10 from your racers, you get a one point bonus if he or she has a trainer from that program.
BB: Fair enough.  All of these bonuses will keep the game administrators busy. Will they have time to get their real work done? The game creators are supposed to be researching and reporting, not playing games. 
Mary: Of course this will be done during their time off. It won't take up as much time as you think because one of us is married to a software engineer who came up with a program to calculate the points, bonuses, and penalties. One of the administrators just enters the names at the beginning of the season. The program has also been written so that players whose racers move up into the top 30 or top 15 are notified so that they can make the necessary changes before the next race. This will be done on a personal computer instead of a work one.
BB: Tell our readers about the different penalties.
Mary: The first one is what we call the "prima donna penalty." There are actually two parts to it. The first is that a player who picks a racer who does not wear the normal team uniform speed suit, and that racer places in the top 10, will have five points deducted from his score.
BB: What about a young racer doing a World Cup race but wearing his team's Europa Cup suit?
Mary: That is okay as long as it is an official team uniform.
BB: It sounds like you are discriminating against Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, who wear their own speed suits. 
Mary: And what is wrong with the official team uniforms? Why are Lindsey and Julia so ashamed of their country that  they refuse to wear the official speed suit? But remember, if they get the most artistry points in the race, the player will get a bonus. Also the USA doesn't have a witch doctor, so those bonus points can offset an athlete refusing to wear the official team race suit. The second part of the prima donna rule is that racers who train separately from their team can result in a three point penalty for a player.
BB: What about racers from very tiny countries like Liechtenstein? For example, Tina Weirather trains with the Swiss team. Chemmy Alcott trained with Norway because the British Federation didn't support her. 
Mary: Those who train with others because their teams are tiny, or because they don't have proper support from their national federations, are exempt. Larisa Yurkiw was dropped by her federation and trains on her own. Tina Maze trains by herself because she didn't get support from SloSki. Adam Zampa trains with the Kostelics and Croatian team. This rule is more for racers from the powerhouse countries who think that they are too good to train with their teammates. There are some Austrians and Americans who train separately instead of with their teams. They obviously realize that there is no I in team.
BB: That sounds fair I guess. Are there any other penalties?
Mary: Yes, there is a second penalty. If the racer is wearing a speed suit that would give him or her an artistic impression deduction, the player gets a two point deduction.
BB: Any player who has a Finnish racer who finishes in the top 10 gets an automatic deduction for those speed suits. The same for the French or Julia Mancuso with her patchwork suit. 
Mary: Like the FIS, we believe that the athletes should look good. They are supposed to be in a ski race, not Clown College! (see this link)
BB: But the racers don't pick their suits, except for a select few. The national federations do. 
Mary: Once our game takes off, the national federations will give their racers better speed suits. The federations don't want to be guilty of causing players to get a deduction because their athletes had horrid speed suits.
BB: I see. Do you know what you will be calling your game?
Mary: We don't have a name for it yet, though we are looking for suggestions for a catchy one that people will remember. But we are hoping that it will be bigger than Fantasy Ski Racer or the PPP game. Of course the Blickbild will be promoting it.
BB: Of course we will. Our employees came up with it after all! The Blickbild's reporters are not only intrepid, they are very creative. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for telling us about your game. I'm sure it will be a big hit next season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters should get a big deduction for shirking their duties and playing a game, but a bonus for inventing it.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

North America Race Weekend #2 Wrap-Up

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

There was so much action in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek last weekend, it was difficult for even our intrepid reporters to keep up with it all. We are going to avoid talking about Lindsey Vonn's comeback like we would crossing a minefield because the others have already reported it to death as in that dead horse has been beaten until it is dust. Anyway, we will talk about the things that the others missed because they were too busy tripping over each other reporting about Vonn's comeback. Let's find out what our reporters have to say about last weekend's races.

Racing with Heart. We are going to be serious for a moment. Yes, even we can be serious once in a while. Canada's Larisa Yurkiw was 4th in the second downhill race in Lake Louise. She was faster than race winner Lindsey Vonn in the first half of the course. If she had an earlier start number and a cleaner course, she may have easily won the race. But nonetheless, Larisa skied her heart out and had the run of her life. Unlike the racers from the bigger teams, Larisa had to overcome obstacles that were the equivalent of the Biblical 10 Plagues. She came back from a major injury and was dropped by her federation. (see this story)  Not only that, Alpine Canada placed what they thought would be impossible requirements on her to qualify for the Sochi Olympics. Larisa exceeded those requirements. If we had an Intrepid Spirit Award, Larisa would be the runaway winner. Larisa, if you ever need a job when you retire, we will hire you in an instant.

If One Is Good...The question that ski racing fans everywhere have been asking is why there are two women's downhill races in Lake Louise but only one for the men? We asked random people in the stands watching the races to see if they knew. Here are some of their replies: 1. Women are slower learners than men and therefore need two downhill races instead of just one.  2. Because it's so exciting to see the same people win in Lake Louise every time.   3. If one downhill is good, then two must be better.  4. The FIS wants to make sure that the big gliders have a chance to win a race.  5. It gives team witch doctors a double opportunity to practice their spells before the European speed races. 6. It is comforting to know who the winner will be before the race even starts. There are too many surprises in life, so the FIS is helping ski racing fans keep their lives predictable. Well, it looks like we will never know the real answer as to why there are two women's downhill races in Lake Louise every year.

Wanted: Speed Suit Designer. France started a trend at the Schladming World Championships with hideously ugly speed suits. We have already commented on Finland's racing suits and how they were designed by someone painting their pyschedelic acid trip onto cloth. Julia Mancuso, already known for her ever-changing hair color, decided to enter the competition for the worst speed suit last weekend. The suits that she wore in Lake Louise were obviously designed by a person whose last job was making Clown College outfits. I can understand Finland having bizarre suits because it has a small team and wants its racers to be noticed. Maybe Julia felt the same after being totally ignored by the media in Lake Louise and wanted to do something to draw attention to herself. Or she could have possibly thought that having a weird speed suit would give her artistic style points. She actually received negative points for her suits because the artistic judging panel in Lake Louise preferred a more simple and classic look. The plain red Italian suits turned out to be the judges' favorites.

Spotted. Our eagle-eyed reporters spotted Lindsey Vonn's father, Alan Kildow, in the audience. The logical explanation was that he was there to watch his daughter ski. But that was not the full story. First of all, Lindsey needed someone to hold up her dog Leo for the cameras during and after the race. None of her sisters were available, so Mr. Kildow volunteered to babysit Leo. It turns out there was another reason for Mr. Kildow to be in Lake Louise. He was recruiting volunteers for a new force to invade both Slovenia and Switzerland. Tina Maze of Slovenia won the first downhill race in Lake Louise and Swiss star Lara Gut won the Super-G for the second year in a row. Lara's win was especially intolerable because it proved that a petite skier with an imperfect run can win in Lake Louise with or without Lindsey in the race. Judging from how the last invasion force he recruited fared (see this story), Mr. Kildow and whoever he recruits for his new army should stay in North America. By the way, nobody has heard anything about the original Slovenia invasion force since it boarded a train in Moscow for somewhere in Siberia. At least the elephants are safe in Austria.

Artistry Winners. The hands down winner was Switzerland's Patrick Kueng in the Beaver Creek downhill. The judges were so impressed by his save, they gave him a perfect score of 10 plus a 7.5 point artistry and originality bonus. Patrick earned most of his bonus points for his one-footed landing with his back leg out at a 90 degree angle. It was obvious that he had either figure skating or ballet training sometime in his life. He misjudged a compression and ended up with a move that will be hard to top this season. See this video. Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria tried to imitate Patrick the next day in the Super-G race, when he went into a compression too quickly and also landed on one leg. He scored an 8.3. While he did come down on one ski, and had his leg out at 90 degrees when he landed, he also fell and lost points.  See this video.  Marianne Abderhalden got originality points for falling just before the finish of the first Lake Louise downhill and sliding in on her backside without missing a gate. Her score was 7.9

Best Witch Doctor. No Blickbilld report would be complete without mentioning witch doctors. France's Dr. Djibuku was the best witch doctor by far. He seems to be the hot commodity now and left Germany's Dr. Mabongo in the dust. French star Alexis Pinturault was 3rd in the Beaver Creek Super-G race and showed that he is not a one-hit Super-G wonder. He tried using the witch doctor that Head provided for him in Levi, but ended up with a DNF and came back to Dr. Djibuku. The next day in the giant slalom race, France had 4 finishers in the top 15: Pinturault (2nd), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (5th), Thomas Fanara (6th) and Mathieu Faivre (11th). The good witch doctor got his boys eating their Les Wheaties again. Norway's witch doctor also did well because Kjetil Jansrud was 1st in the downhill, 2nd in the Super-G and 15th in the GS. Kjetil's teammate Leif Christian Haugen was 12th in the GS. Germany's Dr. Mabongo did not have such good luck. Even though Felix Neureuther (8th in his GS comeback) and Fritz Dopfer (10th), were in the top 10 in the GS, their teammates Linus Strasser and Dominik Schwaiger failed to finish the second run. With technical races coming up in Are next weekend, it will be a good head-to-head test of the witch doctors.

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Aren't you glad you read our report instead of the same old stuff that everyone else has written?

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Secret to the Austrian Women's Success

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The Austrian women have been been on fire this season, taking 7 out of the 12 possible podium places in the first four races. What is the secret to Austria's success this season? Did you like the alliteration in the previous sentence? The others are currently talking about Lindsey Vonn's big comeback in Lake Louise and whether her dog Leo will accompany her on the race piste. But not us. One of intrepid reporters scored an interview with Austrian women's head trainer Juergen Kriechbaum. He reveals the secrets of Austria's success and a few other things. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: The Austrian women have been on a real hot streak this season, getting on the podium in the first four races of the season and winning three of them. What is the secret to their success?
Kriechbaum: The team is very close-knit and the ladies all support each other. They are good friends on and off the race course.
BB: Is it true that your superstars have to train with the rest of the team and can't go off on their own like the US ski racers?
Kriechbaum: That's right. Our veterans, like Lizz Goergl, Kathrin Zettel, and Anna Fenninger, are  role models for the younger racers coming up. The Austrian Ski Federation (OeSV) gives our racers everything they could possibly want or need to help them succeed. Why would they want to go off on their own? They are training with their friends and the younger girls get advice from their more experienced teammates. It's a win-win situation.
BB: Give us an example of what the racers would want or need.
Kriechbaum: They get the best trainers of course, service men, massage therapists, sports psychologists, gym equipment, and food. The OeSV also provides bikes for summer training and any clothing that the racers would like. For example, if one of the ladies wants a new bikini for a summer holiday on the beach, the OeSV would give her the money to buy one. We want our athletes to focus on their skiing and nothing else.
BB: Are you saying that you want the Austrian team to be a group of skiing robots?
Kriechbaum: Au contraire! Our women are anything but robots. Marlies Schild was half of the World Cup's greatest power couple. Regina Sterz is married and several of our racers have boyfriends and a life outside of skiing. Did you see Eva-Maria Brem's reaction when she won her first World Cup race in Aspen? She is definitely not a robot. Neither is Kathrin Zettel, who placed 3rd in the race that Eva-Maria won, who was thrilled for both herself and her teammate. Robots cannot express emotions.
BB: That is correct. Going back to what you said about the OeSV providing your athletes with the best food...Is it true that Kjetil Jansrud gave your team some of his grandmother's ojlmsfjaegger? Could that be the secret of Austria's success this season?
Kriechbaum: What is ojlmsfjaegger?
BB: It's a special treat that Norwegians eat on their birthdays. They are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. Kjetil and his teammate Henrik Kristoffersen have combined to win three out of the four men's races this season. I know for a fact that Kjetil eats a lot of it, even when it isn't someone's birthday.
Kriechbaum: That must be the weird-smelling stuff that Lotte Smitest Sejersted gave out to all of the other racers on her birthday. I don't think that anyone actually ate it.
BB: Now for the question that the whole ski world has been asking about your team...Did you get a witch doctor in the off-season?
Kriechbaum: No! Absolutely not! We are Austria and we don't need a witch doctor. How could you even think such a thing?
BB: Other teams have been acquiring witch doctors. In fact, there is such a high demand for them that the FIS has set up a special program to train people to be witch doctors because the Congo no longer issues visas for them. 
Kriechbaum: Let the other teams get all of the witch doctors that they want. We will never get one because we are Austria. We win the Nations Cup every year without any voodoo magic. Our natural talent and hard work give us victories.
BB: Do you think that Austria is setting a bad precedent by not having a team witch doctor?
Kriechbaum: Not at all.
BB: Let me put it another way. If the demand for witch doctors for ski teams drops, then there will be too many in their home countries. This will cause mass unemployment in those countries and cause their economies to crash. Do you really want to be responsible for the economic collapse of African nations?
Kriechbaum: I hardly think that our team not having a witch doctor will cause economic collapse in Africa.
BB: It only took one case of Ebola to start an epidemic. I bet you will feel horribly guilty when you read about how African countries fall into an economic depression because you think that your team is too good for a witch doctor.  (short pause)  One more question...Do you think that Lindsey Vonn's dog Leo should be allowed to participate in races with her?
Kriechbaum: Why would anyone want their dog racing with them? Doesn't he have a bad leg?
BB: He does. But he goes everywhere with her and could suffer major psychological trauma if he is separated from her for even a minute. That is why she brings him to her interviews, red carpet appearances, and even to the toilet. 
Kriechbaum: That is crazy! Anyway he can't race with her because he is male and wouldn't be allowed in women's races. I don't see why anyone in their right mind would bring a dog onto a race course.
BB: Marcel Hirscher had his dog Whitey with him. (see this story)
Kriechbaum: That was an entirely different situation. Whitey was Marcel's guide dog before he got eye surgery. She served a specific purpose. Leo seems to have no real purpose except to serve as a good prop for Frau Vonn to score points with her fans who are dog lovers.
BB: Wow, you are very unsympathetic! First you don't care about being the guilty party if the economy of the Congo goes belly up because you refuse to get a witch doctor for your team. Then you say that Leo Vonn has no specific purpose in life. Have you forgotten that Lindsey suffered from divorce, tax problems, belly aches, bad hair days, losing races because of the wind, and depression? Leo could be helping her get over those things. 
Kriechbaum: All I know is that my racers would never bring a dog onto the course with them. Judging by the results in Soelden, Levi, and Aspen, they are doing quite well all on their own.
BB: I agree with that. The Austrian ladies are on a tear in the technical disciplines. I hope they continue to do well and I hope that they also have great results in the speed disciplines this season. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for your insight into what makes the Austrian team so great. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't need a staff witch doctor. But we would get one if it helps to keep the Congo's economy afloat. 

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Friday, November 28, 2014

How FIS Points Are Calculated

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

We are constantly getting letters and e-mails asking how FIS points are calculated. They are one of the hardest things for racing fans to fully comprehend. Well, dear readers, you are in luck. Our very own Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers, can explain about how ski racers earn FIS points and how they are figured. The FIS formula is supposed to be so complex, nobody can decipher it. But our Answer Man has cracked the code and will tell all about how FIS points are really calculated. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: What are FIS points?
Answer Man: The short answer would be a skier's ranking in a discipline. Every ski racer is compared to the top athlete in a specific discipline and given points, which translates to a numerical ranking. The top ranked racer in a discipline has zero points and the others have a point score that corresponds with their ranking. The smaller the number, the higher the ranking.
BB: Wait a minute!  I thought that the top racer gets 100 points and not zero.
Answer Man: You are referring to World Cup race points. Those points are related to an athlete's finishing position in a World Cup race. FIS points are what you see in a race results list on the right hand side. Athletes get points in every race from the World Cup to smaller FIS races. The higher a racer finishes, the fewer FIS points he or she earns. There are two parts to calculating FIS points. The first is a direct comparison of a racer's time to the winner's.
BB: Please explain how this is done. 
Answer Man: The first part of the equation is called the race points. The FIS uses the formula P = [(F X Tx) : To] - F.  Tx is the racer's time in seconds, To is the winner's time in seconds and F is a special secret factor that differs for each type of race. For example, the F factors in 2010/11 were: slalom 610, giant slalom 870, super-combined 1130, Super-G 1060, and downhill 1330. The F numbers are changed every year. Let's say that Marcel Hirscher beats Ted Ligety in a giant slalom race by 0.1 seconds and Marcel's winning time was 1 minute and 43.47 seconds. Here is how we would calculate Ted's race points: [(870 X 103.57) : 103.47] - 870, which rounds off to 0.84. 
BB: Let's go back for a moment. How did the FIS get those numbers for the F factor in the different disciplines?
Answer Man: The FIS had a committee of 5 mathematics professors who came up with those numbers. Only they know the secret formula for generating them.
BB: Are you really expecting our readers to believe this?
Answer Man: Okay, here is what really happened. There truly was a committee of five members who were tasked to figure this out. They could not come to an agreement, so they went to the local toy store and bought the biggest Pin the Tail on the Donkey set they could find. Then they printed the numbers from 0 to 2000 on the donkey. When they finished that, the first guy was blindfolded, spun around, and had to pin his tail on the donkey. All five did that for each discipline. The five numbers where the pins landed were averaged and rounded up to the nearest 10.
BB: That is a lot more believable than a bunch of mathematicians inventing a super secret formula. 
Answer Man: The only other requirement was that each F number contains at least one digit that is a prime number. If the original rounded-up number did not contain a digit that was a prime number, then they used the next one that was a multiple of 10 until they got one.
BB: What is the deal with prime numbers?
Answer Man: Evidently someone at the FIS thought that having a prime digit would make their F numbers seem more sophisticated. It would also make ski racing appeal to those who are autistic. Many people on the autism spectrum are fascinated with prime numbers.
BB: I thought many autistic people were fascinated with actual prime numbers versus numbers that happen to contain a prime digit.
Answer Man: That was the best that the FIS could do under the circumstances.
BB: OK, I'll go along with that.  The first part is very straightforward. You calculate each race finisher's time compared to the winner's time using numbers with at least one prime digit that the FIS obtained by playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Answer Man: Correct! The second part is very complex. One of the biggest priorities at the FIS is having an aura of mystery that is designed to totally confuse the fans.
BB: I thought that safety and TV ratings were two of the FIS's biggest priorities.
Answer Man: Of course they are. But so is keeping the fans confused. The second part of the FIS point score is called race penalty points or RPP. RPP is figured by the following simple formula: |[(A + B - C) : 10] - (Ae + Lo) + N|. We take the absolute value of the answer in case it is a negative number.
BB: You will have to explain all of these things so that our readers will understand.
Answer Man: Of course. A is the FIS point total of the top 5 ranked athletes who started the race.
BB: Hold up there. How do you find out the FIS point total of the top 5 starters?
Answer Man: The FIS has a list of every racer along with his or her FIS points. We simply look on the list and add up the points.
BB: OK, carry on with the rest of the formula. 
Answer Man: B is the FIS point total of the 5 racers with the best FIS ranking who finished in the top 10 of the race. C is the race points of the 5 racers in B.
BB: How did they come up with using point totals of the top 5 ranked starters and best 5 out of 10 in a race? Was that also decided by a children's party game?
Answer Man: No. It was a college drinking game minus the alcohol. The same five people at the FIS who came up with the F numbers for race points each tried to bounce a 50 euro cent coin into a glass in the middle of a table. They were given 10 tries and averaged getting the coin into the glass 5 out of 10 times. That made them realize that the numbers 5 and 10 were special and set out to include them in the penalty points formula.  Those numbers are also easy to figure on an abacus. In fact, at races there are special  employees who sit with abacuses to calculate the racers' FIS points. They are much faster than a computer.
BB: How are the FIS previous point totals figured for A and B?
Answer Man: They take the FIS points from the best two races of the season and average them. That is the number used. If a racer wants to improve his ranking, he needs to have fewer points than his second best point total.
BB: This sounds very complex indeed. What are the rest of the numbers in the formula?
Answer Man: Ae is the number of animals that the top 5 ranked athletes in the race earned through winning races. For example, if someone wins a reindeer in Levi or a moose in Lake Louise, that gets included in the race penalty points calculation.
BB: Uh....Ski racers don't win a moose in Lake Louise. 
Answer Man: Well they should because it would help them to improve their ranking. Lo is the number of operations on any part of a ski racer's leg or foot that the athletes in B had.
BB: What if a racer had back surgery, shoulder surgery, or brain surgery? Shouldn't that also count?
Answer Man: Someone at the FIS decided that since you don't ski on your back, shoulder, or head, only leg and foot surgery counts. That could be changed if someone decides to ski the race course on his or her head or shoulder.
BB: What is N?
Answer Man: That is actually the sum of two numbers, which is only figured for the one racer whose points the FIS is calculating. The first is the absolute value of the number of letters in a ski racer's first name minus 5 or 10, whichever answer is smaller, added to the absolute value of the number of letters in a racer's surname minus 5 or 10, whichever answer is less. Tina Maze would have an N value of 2: She has 4 letters in her first name and four in her last. Four minus five is -1 and -1 + - 1 = -2.  The absolute value of -2 is 2. Marcel Hirscher would have an N value of 1: Six letters in Marcel minus 5  is one and 8 letters in Hirscher minus 10 is -2; one and -2 add up to -1, which has an absolute value of 1.   Carlo Janka would have a perfect N value of zero because both his first and last name contain 5 letters.
BB: Ah, the magic numbers of 5 and 10 again. 
Answer Man: That's right. You can see that those numbers are very special to the FIS. But this time the FIS committee didn't use any party games for the N value. They said if 5 and 10 worked  for getting the F factor for races and the A and B the penalty points formula, they would be ideal for the N value.
BB: I see. So in the interest of keeping it simple, a racer's FIS points for any given race are simply the race points plus the penalty points? 
Answer Man: Exactly! It is a combination of comparison to the race winner and others in the race using numbers obtained from pinning tails on a paper donkey, bouncing a coin into a glass, leg surgery, the number of letters in a racer's first and last name, and the number of animals that the athletes won in races. All of this is calculated with an abacus instead of a computer. You are very smart to understand this formula the first time hearing it.
BB:  Of course I am! The Blickbild hires its reporters for their intellect as well as their intrepidness. I'll need to buy an abacus so I can calculate points when I watch the races. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for helping our readers to decipher how FIS points are tallied. I'm sure they can now do this at home with an abacus or even a slide rule.  And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Quick! Someone show us how to use an abacus!

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Levi 2014 Wrap-Up

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The first slalom races of the season have ended. The others will talk about Henrik Kristofferson and Tina Maze's victories, or about the racers who had their first top-10 and top-5 finishes (Nina Loeseth, Michelle Gisin, Alexander Khoroshilov, Sebastian-Foss Solevaag, and Daniel Yule), or how the French men flopped. We won't. Our intrepid reporters were in Levi for the weekend and they are bringing you, dear readers, their unique perspective on the events there. Let's find out what they have to say.

Never Give Up.  Adam Zampa of Slovakia was in 10th place after the first run. In the second run he was leading after the first two splits. Then he had a big mistake and had to hike up to make a gate. A little further down, he had another error and hiked up to make that gate. He ended up finishing the race in last place out of the 28 finishers but did not earn World Cup points because he failed to make the time limit. Most other racers would have given up and simply skied out after having to hike up a second time, but not Adam. He showed that he has the same intrepid fighting spirit as our reporters and research team. In fact, if Adam needs a job when he retires from ski racing, he can work for us. We can always use someone with his determination to never give up, even when the odds are hopeless.

Not a Sack of Potatoes. Austria's Rosina Schneeberger fell and tore her ACL and meniscus in Saturday's race. One of the course workers, who wishes to remain anonymous for a good reason, decided to be gallant and let Rosina ride on his back down the hill. He must have thought it would be quicker than waiting around for a sledge. The TV cameras showed Rosina getting a piggyback ride. What the cameras didn't show was the course worker dropping Rosina at the bottom of the hill. Talk about adding insult to injury! It looks like a certain course worker needs to spend some time in the gym lifting weights before attempting to carry anymore injured racers. We at the Blickbild wish Rosina a full recovery and hope to see her back on the race pistes.

The Jet Lag Express. After 26 hours of travel, the US team arrived in Levi on Thursday night. There were a lot of delays, which is to be expected in a trip with many stops. Instead of getting a direct flight to Helsinki, team officials decided to save money and booked a multi-stop trip. The team went from Denver to New York to Greenland to London to Frankfurt to Helsinki. Then they went from Helsinki to Levi on a reindeer sled, since all of the flights were booked. The miraculous thing about this trip was that nobody's luggage or equipment got lost. The US team's performance suffered because of the long trip and jet lag. Mikaela Shiffrin's 11th place finish was the best US result in Levi. A spokesman for the US team said next year the team will travel from Colorado to New York by stagecoach and then from New York to Finland on a ship. It would still take less time than this year's journey to Levi.

Bode Was Here. Even though US star Bode Miller did not compete in Levi, he was there in spirit and Ted Ligety's body. Ted's second run was very wild and reminiscent of Bode and his reckless style. Ted was all over the place and had multiple errors. It looked like he would straddle a gate or ski out at any time. But he somehow managed the fastest run up to that point. It turns out that Bode is having back surgery and will be out for the next two months. But never fear--Ted is well qualified to be his able replacement until he returns to action.

Reindeer Games. There were rumours floating around Levi that Henrik Kristoffersen's reindeer Lars was really a large dog with antlers strapped to his head. Race officials were worried about giving Henrik an actual reindeer, especially after overhearing him talking with his teammates about grilling reindeer steaks after the race to celebrate Norway's success in Levi. They fastened antlers on a large dog and got him ready for the award ceremony in case Henrik won. At the award ceremony Henrik was presented with the antlered dog. But, being Norwegian, Henrik knows what reindeer look like and could not be fooled that easily. The race officials were forced to give him a real reindeer. But he had to sign a contract stating that Lars could not be turned into steaks or ojlmsfjaegger.

What's With That Spot? A lot of racers had trouble at one point in the transition from the flatter first section to the steep middle part of the course in Levi. Mario Matt, Alexis Pinturault, Jean-Baptiste Grange, Adam Zampa, Reinfried Herbst, and others had to either slow down a lot, hike up to make a gate, or ski out in that same spot. There were many theories floating around Levi about that particular spot. The first was that it was cursed by one of the team witch doctors. But all of the team witch doctors denied cursing the course. Some people speculated that the skiers got momentarily sucked into a vortex, which forced them to slow down or make a massive error when they emerged from it. That theory was also dismissed, though it was just as plausible as a witch doctor's curse.  The most believable theory is that the Naughty Ninja Stone of Doom from Soelden (see this story) came to Levi and had "gone rogue." Since the stone had targeted Ted Ligety in Soleden,  the US Ski Team is the top suspect in putting the stone on the course to trip up the others. Was it strictly a coincidence that the US skiers did not have problems at that spot? The FIS is currently investigating whether the US Ski Team had anything to do with the stone going after everyone, or if it decided to go rogue on its own. Our intrepid reporters will bring you the results of that investigation when it is complete.

Witch Doctor Review. No Blickbild race review would be complete without rating the team witch doctors. France's Dr. Djibuku may have a shorter-than-expected time in France based on the performances in Levi. Alexis Pinturault and Jean-Baptiste Grange did not make the second run. The top French finisher was Julien Lizeroux in 19th place followed by Victor Muffat-Jeandet, who was tied for 21st. Someone needs to get out the box of Les Wheaties. Germany's Dr. Mabongo and Norway's new witch doctor, Dr. Mwafume, were the top two witch doctors in Levi. Dr. Mwafume worked with both the Norwegian men and women in Levi and his efforts resulted in Nina Loeseth placing 5th in her race and Henrik Kristoffersen winning with Sebastian Foss Solevaag taking 4th place in the men's race. The only negative was that Leif Kristian Haugen did not finish the second run. Dr. Mabongo only works with the German men's technical team now. All three of the German men finished in the top 15: Felix Neureuther was 3rd with back problems, Fritz Dopfer 6th, and Philipp Schmid 14th. When asked what he gave to Felix to help with his back, Dr. Mabongo simply said, "A good witch doctor never reveals his secrets." We'll look forward to the next witch doctor showdown in two weeks.

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Even our reporters can tell the difference between a reindeer and a large dog with antlers.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Freedonia Ski Team Investigation Complete

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has completed its investigation of Thai skier Vanessa Mae and the Slovenian and Italian officials who helped her to qualify for the Sochi Olympics. Vanessa Mae and the officials have been suspended for between one and four years. This is old news that the others have already reported, so we won't bother with it. The FIS also looked into how the Mafia enforcers of the Freedonian Ski Team made it to Sochi. What the FIS found will surprise everyone. Here to talk with one of our intrepid reporters is Bob, our favorite contact at the FIS. Bob was part of the committee which investigated Team Freedonia. Let's find out what he has to say. 

BB: Hello, Bob. It's nice to see you again. How are you doing?
Bob: I am doing very well, thank you. It's good to see you too.
BB: Tell our readers about the results of the FIS investigation into the Freedonian Olympic Ski Team. 
Bob: We found no wrongdoing by the Freedonians.
BB: Wait a minute! How can that be? You and your committee found all sorts of irregularities before. (see this story
Bob: We did at first, but after investigating each one, we found no criminal activity or intent to defraud the FIS or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Freedonian officials' suspensions have been reversed and they were given all of their rightful back pay.
BB: Are you admitting that the FIS was wrong?
Bob: The FIS is always right, even when we're supposedly wrong.
BB: Let's go through all of the different points one by one to see how the FIS ruled in Freedonia's favor. The first point is that Freedonia is not a real country. Haven't you ever seen the Marx Brothers' movie "Duck Soup?"
Bob: Of course I have seen "Duck Soup." But the IOC was very insistent on increasing the number of countries that participate in the Winter Olympics, even if some of those countries were fictional. Team Freedonia was actually helping the IOC achieve its goal of a record number of countries represented in Sochi.
BB: The next item is that Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli got FIS points for winning the beginners' race at his ski school. 
Bob:  At the time that Vinnie took his first ski lessons, he was still a patient at the New Jersey Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Before doing the race, his instructor told him to imagine that he was in a real FIS race. After the race, which he won, he wanted to know how many points he got. Since Vinnie was considered criminally insane, nobody wanted to set him off. He was told that he earned real FIS points. After he recovered, nobody wanted to be the one to tell him that his instructor gave him points out of self-preservation. Because Vinnie was considered legally insane at the time, he was allowed to keep his points. Even after he recovered from his illness, he competed in novice races and earned FIS points. We let him keep his points to prevent a relapse.
BB: Are you saying that Vinnie set a precedent using the insanity defense to earn the points required to qualify for the Olympics?
Bob: That is an interesting question. I suppose you could say he did. But the point is that Vinnie was a victim of his illness and therefore did nothing wrong.
BB: Okay. Another member of the Freedonian team, Giovanni "The Hammer"Maggio did not actually participate in any qualifying races, but his 12-year-old son Fabrizio did. 
Bob:  Fabrizio, or "Little Hammer," is quite a gifted ski racer and could make the US Ski Team if he keeps going the way he is. He did race in the Olympic qualifiers and easily earned enough FIS points to go to Sochi. But here is the thing that confused everyone. Fabrizio is actually Giovanni Fabrizio Maggio Jr. He goes by his middle name so that people don't confuse him with his father.  At first our investigators thought that Fabrizio did the races and his father went to the Olympics. But it was actually Fabrizio who went to Sochi. He was registered under his legal name of Giovanni, which  caused confusion. Again, there was no wrongdoing by the Freedonians except for befuddling some of the officials. As far as we know, this is not a crime.
BB: Fair enough. Lorenzo "The Razor" Dinova competed in an Albanian junior championship even though he was 37. That sounds an awful lot like Vanessa Mae competing in the Slovenian Junior Championships at age 34 or 35. 
Bob: The difference between Vanessa Mae and Lorenzo is that Vanessa Mae is not Slovenian, while Lorenzo has an Albanian great-grandparent. Lorenzo's maternal grandmother's mother emigrated from Albania to Italy, where she met her husband. She and her children later emigrated to the USA.
BB: Are you saying that even if I am 1/8th Albanian, I can compete in its national junior championships in my 30s? 
Bob: No. Here is another difference between Vanessa Mae and Lorenzo's races. Vanessa Mae was in a real junior race. She was the oldest competitor by far. Lorenzo was one of the youngest in his race.
BB: Hold on there! Junior races are for those under 21.
Bob: The junior race that Lorenzo competed in was the Albanian Senior Home Resident Championships. Residents of homes for senior citizens all over Albania compete in this race. There are two divisions: the senior division, which is for those over age 80, and the junior division, which is for those 80 and younger. Lorenzo was in the junior division.
BB: But Lorenzo is from New York and never lived in an Albanian senior citizens' home.
Bob: It turned out that there was a shortage of people scheduled to compete in that race last year. The Albanian Ski Federation put out an invitation to anyone with an Albanian ancestor to participate. So it turns out that Lorenzo qualified for Sochi fair and square.
BB: The last person that I will mention did not make it into our original article because our intrepid research team found about this after the article was published. Carlo "The Raptor" Spinelli competed in a race in Abu Dhabi in July. What went on there? It is over 40 C (104 F) in Abu Dhabi in the summer. Most of the summer races are in the Southern Hemisphere, not in a Middle Eastern desert.
Bob: We also checked out that race. It turns out that it was a special race to promote skiing in the Middle East, which was conducted in Abu Dhabi's newest indoor skiing hall.  Everyone who participated in that race was given FIS points. Through that race Mr. Spinelli earned enough points to be able to compete in Sochi. Again, there was no wrongdoing.
BB: Did any of the races that the Freedonians were in have non-existent competitors, or were results changed so that the Freedonians could qualify for Sochi?
Bob: No. We checked start and results lists and everything was correct. All of the competitors were indeed real, as were the results. Another difference between Vanessa Mae and Team Freedonia was that Vanessa Mae got to compete in Sochi, while the Freedonians were mistaken for the security team. The only one who actually got to be on skis was Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli because he was assigned to the Russian biathlon team.
BB: One more thing...How will the FIS stamp out falsifying results for recreational skiers who want to compete in the Olympics? This seems to be a very big problem.
Bob: It is. We are working on it to the best of our ability. But until we can find a way to end this corruption, we at the FIS will continue to always be right.
BB: Of course the FIS will always be right. Well, Bob, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview.
Bob: It was also a pleasure talking with the Blickbild, as always.
BB: And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters don't have to falsify their CVs or compete against non-existent applicants to get their jobs. They just have to be intrepid. 

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Will Vinnie "The Shark" Be Replaced as Lindsey Vonn's Bodyguard?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Lindsey Vonn never goes anywhere without her dog Leo. He even accompanies her when she goes to the toilet. Has Leo replaced Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli as Lindsey's bodyguard? One of our intrepid reporters was dispatched to Copper Mountain, where the US Ski Team was being presented, to try and interview Lindsey, but she was not available. However, we scored a journalistic coup and ran into our favorite Mafia hit man, Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli, who was also training at Copper Mountain. We asked Vinnie about the rumours of his layoff.  Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: It's good to see you again, Vinnie. What have you been doing since the Freedonian Ski Team investigation? (see this story)
Vinnie: The Freedonian Ski Team is still alive and we are hoping to qualify for Vail. In fact, my teammates and I are here at Copper Mountain training for Vail.
BB: How will you compete in Vail when your team is under investigation?
Vinnie: Let's just say that we have ways of convincing Gian Franco Kasper and the rest of his men at the International Ski Federation (FIS) to make it happen.
BB: I'll leave your federation to sort things out with the FIS. In the meantime, our intrepid research team found out that the Freedonian Ski Team has been posing nude to raise funds for race entry fees and to go to Vail.
Vinnie: I don't know where they got their information, but we never posed nude. Team Freedonia did a photo spread in "Mafia Today" magazine right after the Olympics. We posed in ski boots and Speedos while holding our machine gun cases. Remember the photos of Lindsey Vonn in a bikini and ski boots in "Sports Illustrated" back in 2010? Our photos were like those, only we have more hair on our chests than Lindsey. That issue of "Mafia Today" set a sales record that will probably never be broken.
BB: I can imagine. No woman can resist a hot Mafia hit man in a Speedo. (short pause) There are rumours going around the ski world that you have been replaced as Lindsey Vonn's bodyguard. Are they true?
Vinnie: Who is supposed to be my replacement?
BB: Her dog Leo. 
Vinnie: Are you joking with me?
BB: Definitely not! I know better than to joke around with a Mafia enforcer. I treasure my kneecaps too much. Look at the evidence. Ever since Lindsey got Leo, she has not requested a bodyguard.
Vinnie: She also has not been traveling to races, where she will need a bodyguard. She doesn't need protection in Copper Mountain. Once she starts racing again, she will need a good bodyguard. Someone needs to keep her competitors away from her in the start area and also to shoo away those pesky kids who want her autograph after races.
BB: But Leo could do that. He is big enough to scare little kids and he looks fairly intimidating to the other ski racers. 
Vinnie: Leo might scare a few kids, but I don't think that he will scare the other athletes. He is a rather ugly dog, but the other women will still want to pet him and feed him treats.
BB: There are several things that Leo can do that you can't. 
Vinnie: Name one.
BB: He can accompany Lindsey to the bathroom and protect her from all of those unmentionable things that could happen to her in a public WC.
Vinnie: That is true. Even though Leo is male, he can go into a women's bathroom. I have a feeling that he would be more interested in figuring out which toilet to drink from than guarding Lindsey.
BB: Leo can accompany Lindsey to interviews and even sit on the couch with her.
Vinnie: I can do the same thing without climbing all over everyone and slobbering on any food or drinks that are left out.
BB: Leo was with Lindsey at the autograph session after the team was presented in Copper Mountain.
Vinnie: Leo also fell asleep by the table. I would never fall asleep on the job. When I was hired to be Lindsey's bodyguard in Schladming, I vowed to stay awake the entire two weeks of the championships. Red Bull gave me unlimited quantities of its energy drink to help me do so. (see this story)
BB: Here is something that Leo can do that you definitely can't. He can lift his leg and pee on people. 
Vinnie: Hey, I can unzip my trousers and pee on people without having to lift my leg. Anyway, if the most intimidating thing that Leo can do is pee on someone, he really is a big wimp. From what I have seen of him during Lindsey's interviews, Leo is also rather undisciplined. I doubt that he could be trained to pee on people.
BB: Leo can jump on people and hump their legs. 
Vinnie: I could technically do that too. But I am not a pervert. I could see that Leo would be hard to dislodge if he started humping someone's leg. He is a pretty big dog.
BB: Let's say Lindsey wants all of the medals in Vail like she got in Schladming. (see this story) Do you think that Leo peeing on a competitor, or humping her leg, would convince her to give her medals to Lindsey?
Vinnie: Definitely not. If someone's dog did those things to me, it would make me less inclined to give up any medals that I earned.
BB: Do you still work for Red Bull and Head?
Vinnie: Yes. I fully expect to be called to serve as Lindsey's bodyguard once she starts racing again. Remember, I can ski and Leo can't because of his bad leg, so I have an advantage over him. Remember, I was on an Olympic ski racing team.
BB: Even though the Freedonians didn't actually get to race, you were still technically on an Olympic skiing team. 
Vinnie: That's right. I will also be there to convince the other racers to give Lindsey their medals from Vail if that's what she wants. Whatever Lindsey wants, Red Bull and Head are there to get it for her.
BB: Everyone knows how records are the most important thing in the world to Lindsey. They are even more important to her than Leo, believe it or not. If she got all of the medals from Vail, combined with all of the medals from Schladming, she would set a record that nobody would be able to touch. That would be part of her legacy along with her other records. 
Vinnie: And I would be a part of helping Lindsey to break records and establish her legacy through my work with Red Bull and Head. Everyone should ignore the rumours about me being replaced because they are not true. When Lindsey goes up to Lake Louise to race, I will be there as her bodyguard.
BB: I hope you are right. Vinnie, I want to thank you for another interesting interview. It is always a pleasure to talk to you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters don't have to pee on people or hump their legs to get a story. 

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ted Ligety and the Stone of Doom

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 Last weekend in Soelden US giant slalom ace Ted Ligety finished 10th. It was an unusually poor finish for the current world champion and Olympic gold medalist in that discipline. What went wrong? It appears that Ted hit a stone as he was transitioning from the steep part of the course to the flat last section. The others have written about Ted and the stone which shattered his dream of winning the Soelden race for a fourth consecutive time. But we have our unique perspective on Ted and the Stone of Doom. One of our intrepid reporters had the chance to talk to US team trainer Sasha Rearick, who was the one to reveal the connection between Ted and the stone to the ski world. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Are you 100% certain that Ted hit a stone, which caused him to lose time in the flat section?
Rearick: Yes.
BB: How can you be so sure that Ted didn't just make an error on his own? 
Rearick: First of all, Ted is Mr. GS and never makes mistakes. Also, his ski was damaged. It looked exactly like a Great White shark took a bite out of it.
BB: Uh...maybe you missed the day in school where the teacher showed your class a map of Europe. Austria is landlocked and therefore does not have Great White sharks. 
Rearick: Maybe an Austrian mountain Yeti took a bite out of it. The point is Ted's ski was damaged, which made him lose time in the flat section.
BB: Do you have the ski or a photo of it to show our readers?
Rearick: No. We gave the ski to the Head service people immediately after the race.
BB: So the world will never know if Ted really hit a rock or a Yeti took a bite out of his ski?
Rearick: The Head service people saw the ski and said that it was damaged beyond repair, so they got rid of it. But it is more believable that he hit a rock. A Yeti would have to jump up, bite the ski, and then disappear without being seen by 15,000 spectators and the course workers. The odds of a Yeti biting Ted's ski are extremely slim.
BB: Nobody made any reports to the media about a Yeti biting Ted's ski, so in all probability he hit a rock. How come nobody else reported a rock on the course? Twenty-eight racers came down before Ted and none of them hit a rock.
Rearick: Maybe someone planted the rock on the course just before Ted's run. Marcel Hirscher was in the lead and would go next after Ted. It was Austrian National Day after all.
BB: Are you accusing a course worker of deliberately trying to sabotage Ted so that Marcel would win the race in front of his countrymen on National Day?
Rearick: I have no direct proof. But there was something out there targeting our skiers. Tim Jitloff had to hike up to make a gate and Ted had a poor second run.
BB: But Tim's mistake was on a different part of the course than Ted's. Are you implying that Tim also hit a rock but just didn't report it?
Rearick:  I am sure that is what happened. Something caused him to have a big mistake and the logical explanation was a rock. If he had a perfect run, he could have had a chance to be on the podium. Hitting a rock derailed his dream of a podium place in Soelden.
BB: Maybe he went too fast and missed the gate. Otherwise there would have to have been two rocks on the course, since Tim and Ted had errors in different places. Or there could have been one rock that moved sometime between Tim's run and Ted's. 
Rearick: That is very possible. Something was definitely conspiring against our team.
BB: A rock is an inanimate object. It does not have the capability to think up a plot against someone or move from place to place on its own. 
Rearick: Hey, this is not the first time that a rock messed with our team. In 2012 Lindsey Vonn hit a rock during a giant slalom race in Courchevel and did not finish because of it.
BB: Come on, do you really believe that there is a rock out there that travels all over Europe for the sole purpose of ruining the US skiers' races?
Rearick: Yes I do! Look at the evidence. Lindsey and Ted hit a rock. Tim possibly hit one in Soelden too, but was too shy to admit it. Ski racers from other countries don't report skiing over stones when they ski out or have a mistake. Therefore, the rock has something against our racers.
BB: As I said before, a rock cannot move by itself. How would it get from place to place?
Rearick: It is obviously some sort of magic rock. Maybe another team's witch doctor put a spell on it.
BB: So there is a magic rock that can move itself from one place to another that only targets American ski racers?
Rearick: Yes. It is stealthy like a Ninja and can camouflage itself like a chameleon, which is why the course workers don't see it. The rock strikes when we least expect it and shatters our racers' ambitions. Ted really wanted to win in Soelden four times in a row, but that rock destroyed his dream. He is traumatized!
BB:  How does this Stone of Doom get from place to place?
Rearick: It teleports itself. That's the only thing I can think of. If teleportation worked in "Star Trek," it would also work in the World Cup. Anyway, it has to be the same rock every time. I can't imagine that  more than one rock wishes to target our skiers.
BB: Let me get this straight. You are saying that there is one traveling Naughty Ninja Dream Shattering Trauma Inducing Killer Stone of Doom whose sole aim is to cause American ski racers to make mistakes, lose races, and cause long-lasting psychological trauma?
Rearick: Yes I do, though it does sound a little bit crazy when you put it that way.
BB: It certainly does. Be careful or you could end up in a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane.
Rearick: That rock is the one who belongs in an institution for the criminally insane! It is the one who is going after our skiers and traumatizing them for life by turning their dreams and skis to dust! That rock is practically a psychopathic serial killer!
BB: How can a stone be a serial killer if it has no mind of its own? The only way a stone could be a serial killer is if someone takes it and pounds his victims on the head with it. 
Rearick: You don't seem to know much about this Killer Rock. It serially kills our skiers' chances of winning races or being on the podium. It also kills their minds by traumatizing them.
BB: I don't believe that Ted is traumatized for life because he hit a rock, if that's what really happened. If every skier who had a bad race suffered lifelong mental anguish, the psychiatric hospitals would be full of ski racers. Ted admitted that he made a mistake in the transition and that Marcel would have won the race even without the error. He also said that he prefers to be in the lead and not the chaser, so he was thrown off his usual game. He did not mention anything about a rock or a Yeti  taking bites out of his ski.
Rearick: Ted has always been an excellent sport. He really needs to learn to make good excuses for why he did not win. It's the American way.
BB: I see. By the way, I believe that Ted will bounce back. He has always been very strong and determined after having a bad race. 
Rearick: I hope so. The team is back in the States to regroup. Can you imagine what would have happened if Bode Miller raced in Soelden and the Killer Stone struck him? His baby was there. That baby would have lifelong Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from seeing his father's victory stolen by a killer rock that decided to eat Bode instead of his ski. We are taking precautions in the States to ensure that the Stone of Doom stays in Europe. Head has even loaned us its famous Mafia enforcer Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli to keep the Stone of Doom away from our skiers.
BB: I'm sure that Vinne will do his usual fine job of being a bodyguard. He can even tell you about his experiences in the hospital for the criminally insane. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview, which was starting to get absurd even by our  standards. I hope that the US team regroups for its next race, that Ted comes back stronger from his defeat, and that the Killer Stone of Doom doesn't bother your team anymore. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: If our reporters used a Naughty Ninja Dream Shattering Trauma Inducing Killer Stone of Doom as an excuse for conducting a poor interview, they would end up in the nearest insane asylum.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Levi Reindeer Roulette

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

After Marcel Hirscher won in Soelden, he said that he was looking forward to the races in Levi so that he could visit and feed Ferdinand, the reindeer that he won last year. The question immediately will Marcel recognize Ferdinand? After all, it has been a year since Marcel won Ferdinand and reindeer can change a lot over that period of time. And how will he know that he really has the correct reindeer? Well, dear readers, you are in luck. One of our intrepid reporters scored an interview with one of Ferdinand's herders. He wanted to be called Matti for this interview. Let's find out what Matti has to say.

BB: How many reindeer do you have in your herd?
Matti: Right now we have 257.
BB: Marcel Hirscher's reindeer, Ferdinand, is in your herd. Is Mikaela Shiffrin's reindeer, Rudolph, also part of your herd?
Matti: Yes. It has been a real honor and privilege to take care of both Ferdinand and Rudolph.
BB: Have Marcel and Mikaela been logging in to your special website to see how their reindeer are doing?
Matti: Yes. They are both very interested in their reindeer, so they log in often. Not everyone gets to own a reindeer.
BB: That is true. The question that the ski world is asking is how do Mikaela and Marcel really know that  they are seeing Ferdinand and Rudolph and not a different reindeer when they log into the website?
Matti: What do you mean?
BB: I  have seen many photos of reindeer and they all look alike.
Matti: They do not all look alike! Every reindeer is different. You can tell your kids apart, can't you?
BB: Of course I can.
Matti: Well it is the same for me. My reindeer are my babies and I can easily tell them apart.
BB: So you don't have Ferdinand or Rudolph's names branded across their sides?
Matti: (horrified) No! Branding an animal is cruel. I would never do such a thing!
BB: You're right. What about tattooing their names on them instead?
Matti: That is even worse than branding. You could never get a reindeer to stay still long enough to get a tattoo, especially one with a long name like Ferdinand.
BB: Do they have their names stamped on them? That is much quicker than tattooing them. 
Matti: No. How would we stamp a reindeer?
BB: With a very large stamp of course. You ought to know because you're a reindeer herder.
Matti: I never heard of reindeer being stamped.
BB: Do you color Ferdinand and Rudolph differently so that they are easy for Marcel and Mikaela to find on the website? For example, is Ferdinand blue and Rudolph red?
Matti: No. It would be very difficult to dye a reindeer. Anyway, I don't need to dye them because I know which ones are Ferdinand and Rudolph.
BB: Do you shave their names in their fur so it's easy for Marcel and Mikaela to spot them on the website?
Matti: No!  We don't brand, tattoo, stamp, or dye our reindeer or shave their names in their fur. We leave our reindeer as nature created them.
BB: Do you put clothes on them, like a sweater or little booties, so that they are easy to identify? Or do you string colored lights on their antlers?
Matti: This is really getting ridiculous! No, all of our reindeer are naked and stay that way. They also don't have colored lights on their antlers. Where do you come up with this stuff?
BB: At the Blickbild, we ask the questions that the others don't dare to ask. (short pause) Let's say that Marcel and Mikaela win in Levi again. Will you give them different reindeer, or will you give them Ferdinand and Rudolph again because they probably won't notice the difference?
Matti: Of course they will get different reindeer. Just because you can't tell the difference between reindeer doesn't mean that Marcel or Mikaela will have the same problem.
BB: If someone else wins in Levi, will you give them Ferdinand and Rudolph?
Matti: No. They will get different reindeer.
BB: If Marcel or Mikaela don't win in a few weeks, you will now have four reindeer to keep track of. Won't that be difficult to keep track of which ski racer has which reindeer?
Matti: No. I can easily keep track of all of my reindeer.
BB: One more question. When Marcel and Mikaela visit their reindeer, can they be assured that they are seeing the real Ferdinand and Rudolph? 
Matti: Of course. If I had all of my reindeer lined up, I could easily pick out which ones are Ferdinand and Rudolph.
BB: You didn't secretly sell Ferdinand and Rudolph to the Norwegians for ojlmsfjaegger* and will therefore show Marcel and Mikaela different reindeer when they come to visit?
Matti: Why would I sell any of my reindeer to the Norwegians? There are more than enough reindeer in Norway to supply the country with ojlmsfjaegger for many centuries. Marcel and Mikaela will definitely be visiting and feeding the proper reindeer.
BB: Let's hope so. That would cause a major scandal if Ferdinand and Rudolph have been turned into ojlmsfjaegger, or whatever reindeer dishes you eat in Finland, especially if Marcel and Mikaela really can pick out their reindeer from the rest of the herd. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this enlightening interview. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

* Oljmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce that are eaten on birthdays in Norway. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters are easy to pick out in the press pool. They are the most intrepid ones. 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Soelden 2014 Review

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Our intrepid on-the-spot reporters were in Soelden to bring our readers the stories that the others don't dare to print. The others will talk about Mikaela Shiffrin and Anna Fenninger tying for first place, Marcel Hirscher's huge margin of victory, or Ted Ligety's big mistake that landed him in 10th place. We won't. Instead, our reporters dug deep and found stories that even the tabloids won't touch. Let's find out what they have to say. 

Is Sweden Still Cursed? Even though Dr. Mabongo's curse against Sweden was lifted during the summer break, Team Sweden performed like it was still under it. The top Swedish woman was Maria Pietilae-Holmner in 8th place, while the best male performer was 14th place Calle Lindh. Did Dr. Mabongo really lift his curse, or does the team still think it is in effect? We tried to contact Dr. Mabongo to find out if he really lifted his curse, but he was busy with the German men's team and had no time for us. One would think that the publication which made Dr. Mabongo famous would be worth a few minutes of his time. He had time to send Frida Hansdotter flowers before the women's race, and time to help Fritz Dopfer to a 2nd place finish in Soelden, but none for us. We'll show that little twerp......................anyway, we will just have to wait three weeks until the races in Levi to find out if Dr. Mabongo's curse is still in effect. 

Julia Mancuso's Hair. Dr. Mabongo is not the only one keeping our readers in suspense. Julia Mancuso is doing the same with her hair color. Over the summer she had blue hair, but she showed up in Soelden as a blonde. What hair color will she have for the North American races? It turns out that one of Julia's new sponsors is Miss Clairol Hair Dye. At every race weekend this season she will sport a different hair color, which will not be announced in advance. Members of ski racing fan sites are already placing bets on Julia's hair color for Aspen and Lake Louise. Julia's hair raises an interesting question for the FIS. Will a racer be deducted if her hair color clashes with her racing suit or boots? The powers that be at the FIS will be debating whether hair counts as part of a racer's ensemble, and can therefore incur artistry bonuses or deductions, at their next meeting. 

Best Artistic Impression. Ondrej Bank of the Czech Republic lost a ski in the early part of the second run. He did a great job staying balanced on one ski and earned bonus points for his grace. The Russian judge was especially impressed with Ondrej's performance and gave him a perfect 10. Unfortunately, that score was thrown out. But the average of his other scores was 9.6. Ondrej's service man, on the other hand, got a big zero and a scolding for neglecting to properly adjust the ski's bindings. Jared Goldberg of the USA earned originality points for his move where he landed on his back, bounced up, and was able to complete the first run. The down side was that he lost a lot of time and did not qualify for the second run. Jared earned a score of 9.35. Tim Jitloff (USA) looked like he missed a gate in the second run and was on the way to being disqualified. But he went around that gate in a way that looked like he straddled it. Video revealed that his technique was legal and he got bonus points for his creativity in looking deceptive. His artistry score was 8.9 despite a zero from the French judge (which was thrown out), who is still convinced that Tim cheated. 

How Do You Define Fast and Slow? It looks like the Austrian commentators on ORF either need new glasses, or they need to come back to Earth from their alternate universe. Co-winner Mikaela Shiffrin was the first racer and finished her run in 1:17:93. After she finished, the commentators thought that her time would not hold up because the normal time for the Soelden course is around 1:12. They thought that Mikaela looked great, had impressive form, and skied a perfect line, but was slower than a snail. Mikaela had the last laugh when she led the field after the first run. In the second run, the ORF commentators thought that Andrea Fischbacher, who had the fastest time in Run 2, was unbelievably fast. Her time? 1:19:59. So 1:17 is too slow, but 1:19 is faster than a speeding bullet? Our reporters and researchers want to move to Planet ORF the next time they miss a deadline. Their editors will think they finished before they even got the assignment. 

Lucky Numbers. Last year in Soelden the winning number for the men and women was 3. This year co-winners Mikaela Shiffrin and Anna Fenninger had start numbers 1 and 5 respectively. Both numbers average to 3. But it looks like this year that 5 is a lucky number because that was men's winner Marcel Hirscher's number. Continuing on the 5 theme, Justin Murisier of Switzerland had start number 55 and finished Sunday's race in an impressive 12th place. FIS officials will be monitoring the number draw box in Levi to ensure that the numbers 5 and 55 are not the only ones in it.

A Sight that Makes Sore Eyes. France started a trend in 2013 with its speed suit that looked like it had been designed by someone who was high on hallucinogenic drugs. Other countries have followed suit with the psychedelic look, notably Norway and Finland. Norway's new racing suit is purple with other colors in a crazy pattern. But the ensemble that was hardest on the eyes was Finland's. Last year's speed suit was bad enough with its blue and white stripes. This year Finland went to a black and white checkerboard pattern. But the warm up pants and jackets were even worse. They had the checkerboard pattern but the bottoms of the pants and sleeves had red, yellow, and black stripes in a German flag pattern. There was even some green mixed in on the cuffs and bottom of the pants. The designers at Halti were obviously doing their best to get bonus points for artistry and originality. Either that, or their strategy was to get Finnish racers to win by making the others tear their eyes out after looking at their clothing.

You Ask A Stupid Question. Our reporters are known for coming up with hard-hitting questions. But in Soelden Marcel Hirscher was asked the all-time dumbest question in ski racing history. The good thing is that one of our intrepid reporters did not ask it. A US reporter asked Marcel Hirscher if he felt that it was important to win in his home country. Marcel was his usual cool self and said, "Of course." Was  he supposed to have said, "No. I really wanted to lose but, darn it, I was going too fast and ended up winning the race?"  If one of our reporters asked a question like that, he would find himself in the unemployment line faster than Andrea Fischbacher skied the second run in Soelden. We will stick to questions that nobody else dares to ask.

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't change our hair color, but people think that we take 5 types of hallucinogenic drugs to come up with our stories. 

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild