Monday, February 3, 2014

Did Marcel Hirscher Straddle: The Austrian-US Ski War

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Hannes Reichelt of Austria won this season's classic Hahnenkahm downhill race. Two days later he had surgery for a severely herniated disk. The day after Hannes triumphed, US racer Bode Miller was disqualified in the slalom portion of the super-combined race for straddling a gate. Bode would have placed 3rd, but Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher moved up to 3rd place due to Bode's DQ. Two days later in Schladming, Marcel was accused by the US of straddling the first gate in the second run of the slalom. What is going on? Is there a new Cold War between the US and Austria? There seem to be more accusations, intrigue, and conspiracies with the US and Austria than in a Brazilian soap opera. We dispatched one of our intrepid reporters to Austria to get the story. Our reporter talked to former Schladming police chief Hermann Mayer. Let's find out what Herr Mayer has to say.

BB: Herr Mayer, I see that you are no longer the police chief of Schladming.
Mayer: That's right. I am now a special consultant for crime prevention on the FIS Alpine skiing World Cup circuit. I work with the FIS, the Austrian Gendarmarie, and Interpol and am now based in Vienna instead of Schladming.
BB: Congratulations on your promotion! It looks like someone was impressed with the work you did to find Germany's witch doctor during the last world championships. Good luck in your new position.
Mayer: Thank you.
BB: I see you have your dog Fido with you now. Does he also work with you in Vienna?
Mayer: Yes. Ever since Fido found Dr. Mabongo hiding in Matthias Hargin's speed suit, he has been my faithful partner. We will travel to Sochi together as part of the Austrian security team.
BB: Let's start with Hannes Reichelt's back injury. You claim that you found evidence that it was not caused by normal wear and tear from ski racing.
Mayer: That's right. My colleagues and I suspect some sort of foul play behind Hannes' injury.
First of all, Hannes won one of the most difficult downhill races on Saturday. But on Monday morning he had surgery because he was practically crippled. He went from winning one of the most prestigious races in the World Cup to an operating table in two days. Secondly, Fido found a needle and a baby doll in the area where Bode's wife was standing. Mrs. Miller's story is that a button fell off her jacket and she needed to sew it back on, thus the needle. She said that she had the baby doll because none of the fans in Kitzbuehel would lend her a baby to hold up for the cameras. My men also found a copy of "Voodoo for Dummies" in the Milllers' recreational vehicle.
BB: Why would Bode and Morgan Miller want to harm Hannes Reichelt, who is one of the nicest guys in the World Cup?
Mayer: According to sources at the US Ski Team, Hannes started the whole chain of events when he won the Hahnenkahm downhill race. Bode was supposed to have won that race to seal his legacy, but Hannes stole his victory. It didn't matter to the US Ski Team that Hannes was the fastest skier with a flawless run while Bode made a mistake. We found out that Bode was given permission to get back at Hannes. But Bode didn't want to get his hands dirty, so he gave his wife the doll, some needles, and instructions to read Chapter 3 of "Voodoo for Dummies." She did the rest.
BB: How did the Austrians feel when they found out about the doll  and pins?
Mayer: They were not pleased to say the least. The Austrian Ski Federation needed to come up with a plan to get back at Bode for injuring one its top racers.
BB: What was this plan?
Mayer: They had to find a way to prevent Bode from getting on the podium in the super combined race. Austria conspired with Switzerland to get Bode to straddle a gate in that race.
BB: Wait a minute! Switzerland is a neutral country. They don't get involved in anyone else's battles.
Mayer: Switzerland set the combined race's slalom course. All of the trainers and athletes also had input about the setting during course inspection. Let's just say that Austria gently persuaded the Swiss to change the gate configuration to make it more favorable for Marcel.
BB: By gentle persuasion do you mean they hired a Mafia hit man or threatened them with a witch doctor's curse?
Mayer: (offended) Austria does not have any witch doctors or Mafia hit men! Our ski team is the best and doesn't need outside help to stay that way!
BB: Of course Austria is the best.  What was I thinking? But now I can see why a lot of the speed specialists in the Kitzbuehel combined race looked like they needed to take a basic slalom class. 
Mayer: Exactly! When Bode got disqualified for his straddle, which was obvious on the video replay, the US was very unhappy. It was the second time that weekend that an Austrian took what they felt was rightfully Bode's. The time for real revenge was at hand!
BB: And that's how the accusations of Marcel straddling in Schladming came about?
Mayer: Right! The people who first mentioned it were commentators from Universal Sports, which is a US sports network. The FIS's highly trained gate judges would have signaled if Marcel straddled. None of them did. The experts who watch the video replays frame-by-frame did not see a straddle. In addition, none of the other teams filed a complaint within the 15 minute time period.
BB: Maybe the others were afraid to complain because the race was held in Austria and an Austrian skier was involved. 
Mayer: That's what the US and their allies want the public to believe. They want the fans to think that there was a grand conspiracy by Austria to cover up the fact that Marcel straddled a gate. But slow-motion video replays showed that Marcel was clean and that the so-called straddle was an optical illusion. But we found that if there was a conspiracy, it was a US one to discredit Marcel and Austria.
BB: Have you found any evidence of a conspiracy?
Mayer: We looked at banking records and found that a large sum of money was transferred from an unknown entity to Universal Sports through a secret account in the Cayman Islands. My men are currently going through the bank records to figure out who sent the money.
BB: In other words, the Universal Sports commentators were bribed to say that Marcel straddled?
Mayer: That's right. They were the only ones to mention that Marcel straddled. But other US outlets picked up the story and ran with it. It was only after the Norwegians and French posted the story on some of their sites that the Universal Sports commentators confessed that they were wrong about Marcel straddling. They ended up giving the money to their favorite charities. But Austria got back at the US because it set the course for the first run of the St. Moritz giant slalom race. Bode ended up with an acrobatic DNF.
BB: Yes, but US racer Ted Ligety won that race and had the fastest run on the Austrian-set course.
Mayer: That's true. But Marcel still got back at the US by keeping his head and finishing second in that race, adding to his lead in the overall standings. Now we need to wait and see what move the US has in store for Austria. We will be ready to counter it!
BB: Do you think that this Ski Racing Cold War will come down to one country invading the other one?
Mayer: Austria is a peaceful country. But if the US wants to invade us, we will be ready! We learned from Slovenia last year how to prepare for an invasion. The elephants that we found in Soelden last October have been fattened up and are ready to face down an invading force! We even have some special boxing kangaroos!
BB: Kangaroos? In Austria?
Mayer: Yes, kangaroos. The Salzburg Zoo agreed to lend us their Australian boxing kangaroos in the event of an invasion. But the invaders will have to find us on a map first.
BB: Let's hope that the war between Austria and the US is fought on skis and not with armies,  elephants, and kangaroos. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Mayer, I want to thank you for this interview. I'm sure that you and Fido will do a good job keeping the athletes safe in Sochi. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Will Hannes Reichelt and Bode Miller challenge each other to a duel when Hannes recovers from his surgery? How did the Salzburg Zoo get boxing kangaroos? And how does Marcel Hirscher's Finnish reindeer Ferdinand fit into this puzzle? All this and more in our next episode.

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