Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Saalbach and Maribor Wrap-Up

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The races in Saalbach and Maribor had more than their fair share of excitement and surprises. Our intrepid reporters were in both places looking for the stories that nobody else would dare to print. Of course our gallant journalists found stories that the others ignored. We will do news briefs instead of our normal interview format. Let's find out what our reporters have to say...

Training Doesn't Count. Adrien Theaux executed a perfect Kristian Ghedina spread-eagle jump and landed on his feet during one of the downhill practice runs. He earned a score of 20 out of 10 for his graceful position in the air and pinpoint landing from the artistry judges on the sideline. It was a record artistic impression score. But wait! According to Section 12.3 in the FIS Big Book of Rules, the only artistry scores that can be submitted for records must occur during actual competition. The French Ski Federation appealed to the FIS to  have it count, citing the forerunner who tied for an artistry gold medal in Vail, but its plea fell on deaf ears. The French representatives were told that if Adrien, or any other racers, want to set a new artistry record, they must do so in a real race.

No More Witch Doctors? After Austria swept the three podium places in the Saalbach downhill, the ski blogosphere lit up with complaints about how the Austrians had the home advantage. If home snow advantage was really such a big thing, then Georg Streitberger would have won the race, or at least been on the podium. But he wasn't. Georg is from the Saalbach area. The athletes may have been competing in their home country, but they still had to perform on race day and they did. So much for the naysayers who claimed that the Austrian speed team is washed up. But the real issue that the Austrian sweep in Saalbach raises has nothing to do with home snow advantage. Austria is one of the few teams that does not have a witch doctor. The Austrian coaching delegation believes that the Power Team is so good that it doesn't need a witch doctor. Over the past two seasons there has been a huge demand for witch doctors. The FIS even set up a special course to train witch doctors because the countries which have them are no longer issuing witch doctor visas. It is possible that the Austrian sweep could convince teams that they don't really need a witch doctor to be successful. Then there would be a lot of unemployed witch doctors heading back to Africa, South America, and Oceania and resulting economic chaos in their homelands. Let's hope that the teams with witch doctors will keep them in order to prevent world economic collapse.

Witch Doctors II. German ski team witch doctor Dr. Mabongo went to Maribor to work with the women. Whatever he did paid off and he is the top witch doctor of the weekend. He is definitely the front runner for this year's Dave Seville Award. Viktoria Rebensburg started the weekend off with a close 2nd place finish in the giant slalom race. In the slalom race the next day, the two German women in the second run, Lena Duerr and Maren Wiesler, both had their best finishes in a World Cup slalom. Lena was 5th and Maren 12th. Now the Germans have a dilemma. After working with the women for almost two seasons, Dr. Mabongo switched over to the men's team. The German men have had great results this season. Now what will the German Ski Federation (DSV) do? Will Dr. Mabongo stay with the men or go back to the women's team? Or will the DSV hire a second witch doctor? We will provide updates as soon as we get them.

Almost Doesn't Count. Lindsey Vonn repeating endlessly on social media about how she had the fastest first split in the Maribor giant slalom brings up an interesting question for the FIS. Will a racer only get World Cup points if she crosses the finish line? Or could she earn special bonus points for having the fastest times between the start and first split, the first to the second split, or the last split to the finish line even if she has a DNF? One of our intrepid reporters talked to Bob, our contact at the FIS. Bob told our reporter that for now the only time that counts is when an athlete crosses the finish line. Basketball players don't get a point if their shot hits the rim and footballers (soccer players to our US readers) don't get a partial point if they hit the crossbar or post. A ski racer could be the very fastest up until the last gate before the finish, but if she misses that gate, her run goes into the race record as a DNF and the split times are meaningless. The FIS also does not keep records of who had the highest number fastest split times in a season or a career. But Bob also said that the FIS is always open to new ideas and could discuss the idea of giving points for the fastest split times in races.

Artistry Awards. No race weekend report is complete without the artistic impression awards. Kathrin Zettel may have had the best second slalom run in Maribor, but she also had the highest artistry score of the weekend. During the first run she had a balance break and ended up on one ski. She earned a score of 9.2, getting bonus points for technical merit for going around a gate on one ski. Marie-Michele (Mitch) Gagnon and Tina Maze copied Benni Raich's 360 spin in Vail but with different results. Mitch beat Tina by a score of 8.7 to 8.15. Mitch did a 360 but was deducted for a bend in the waist. Since the 360 had been done before, neither she nor Tina earned an originality bonus. But Mitch stayed on her feet, while Tina received a mandatory 0.5 deduction for her fall.

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Almost doesn't count. That's why we don't hire people who are almost intrepid.

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