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.

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