Sunday, February 16, 2014

Athlete Profile: Max Franz

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Two seasons ago, young Austrian skier Max Franz caught the notice of many experts and ski racing fans. He was pegged as one to watch. Last year he did not achieve his potential because he got injured partway through the season. This season he has become more consistent and was one of two Austrian men who was guaranteed a place in the Olympic downhill race. Max is part of the new generation of Austrian speed skiers, which also includes downhill gold medalist Matthias Mayer and Otmar Striedinger. But there is something that the fans don't know about Max. Our intrepid research team found out that Max is not only a talented ski racer, he is an ace at another winter sport. Let's meet this multi-talented young racer and find out what he has to say (note: This interview was conducted before the Sochi Super-G race, where Max placed 6th.)

BB: Max, you finished 9th in the Sochi downhill but wanted to finish higher. What are your thoughts for the Super-G race?
Franz: I was disappointed about the downhill, but happy that my teammate Matthias Mayer won. That was cool to see him restore Austria's glorious skiing legacy. I hope to have a good performance in the Super-G. Maybe Matthias and I can both win medals.
BB: Did you have any worries about making the Olympic team?
Franz: Austria has such a strong and deep team. It is always difficult to choose four racers for each event. I was hoping to make the team as a ski racer. But I also had a Plan B for getting to the Olympics.
BB: Please tell our readers how you would have gone to the Olympics if you weren't part of the ski team.
Franz:  If I didn't make the Austrian ski team, I would have gone to Sochi as a figure skater.
BB: A figure skater?
Franz: That's right.
BB: How did you get into figure skating?
Franz: When I was starting out as a very young ski racer, one of my trainers suggested doing figure skating for summer training. My training group would go into the local ice skating hall and learn spins, jumps, and fancy footwork on the ice. I was the best one in my group and went on to take advanced training.
BB: Most ski teams have their young racers go outdoors or go into a gym for summer training so that they build strength and endurance.
Franz: Have you ever skated a 5-minute long program with lots of jumps? That takes a lot of endurance! The jumps require strength to pull them around. But most importantly, figure skating is great for improving balance, which is very important in ski racing.
BB: That is true.  Now I know where you got your elegant moves in the slalom legs of the combined races in both Kitzbuehel and Sochi. 
Franz: Yes, they are figure skating moves. I decided that if I had a problem in the slalom, I would throw one of my skating spins. My trainers told me that I should always fall with style.
BB: Which you did. In fact, you earned 12.6 out of a total of 10 points for your 360 and work on one ski in the Sochi super combined race. The judges were so impressed that they gave you a 3 point artistry bonus. If they gave out medals for artistic impression, you would easily have won a gold one. 
Franz: I was glad that my figure skating training helped. Otherwise I would have simply belly flopped or skidded out like some of the others.
BB: If you didn't make it to Sochi as a skier, would you have been good enough to go as a figure skater?
Franz: I think so. There are not so many figure skaters in Austria because everyone wants to be a skier. But since I was a young boy I dreamed about going to the Olympics any way I could. It is very difficult to make the Austrian ski team. But if I didn't make it as a ski racer, I had figure skating. There is much less competition in Austria for a place on the figure skating team.
BB: Our intrepid research team talked to one of your figure skating trainers and he told us about your one big weakness as a skater. Can you tell our readers about it?
Franz: Yes. When you land a jump like a triple toe loop or a double axel, you are supposed to land on one leg, have the other leg straight behind you, and spread your arms. Every time I land a jump, I land in a racing tuck and have my hands forward. My trainers tried to tell the judges that I was doing my own artistic variation on the jumps, but they didn't buy it.
BB: What do you wear when you compete in figure skating events?
Franz: My Austrian ski racing suit.
BB: Do you put sequins, rhinestones,  and feathers on it to make it more dazzling?
Franz: No. I want to be known as the skating ski racer. It helps me to stand out along with my unique way of landing jumps.
BB: Do you plan to compete in slalom races next season so that the fans can see more of your impressive skating moves?
Franz: No, I think I will stick to the speed disciplines and just do slalom in the combined events.
BB: Do you see yourself competing as a figure skater when you eventually retire from ski racing?
Franz: You never know. I would like to because I want to stay active in sports when I retire. I could also become the first Austrian to go to the Winter Olympics in two totally unrelated sports.
BB: That would be amazing if that happened. Well, Max, it looks like we are running out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish you luck for the rest of the World Cup season. 
Franz: Thank you.
BB: And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

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