Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vail Highlights

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Our intrepid reporters and researchers were in Vail bringing our readers the stories that the others don't dare to report. They worked overtime finding the things that the others ignored in Vail, which is why our report is a bit late. But, as they say, better late than never. Let's find out what our journalists came up with...

1. It's deja vu all over again. Yogi Berra would have loved this one. The 2010 Olympics Super-G was that last major championship race where Lindsey Vonn won a bronze medal. The Austrian trainer set the course, an Austrian racer won the gold medal, and Tina Maze won the silver medal. Ms. Vonn's ex-husband, who was her trainer at the time, accused the Austrians of conspiring to make her lose (see  this article).  Fast forward five years to to Vail. The course setter for the Super-G was the Austrian trainer, though a different one than in Vancouver. The winner was Austrian, Tina Maze won silver, and Lindsey Vonn got the bronze medal. Here is another coincidence that was pointed out by one of our Alert Readers. The winner in Vancouver, Andrea Fischbacher, and Vail gold medalist Anna Fenninger both have the same initials. Is this just a weird coincidence or a planned Austrian conspiracy? This sounds like a job for our intrepid research team.

2. Two Awards, One Slope.  Men's downhill gold medalist Patrick Kueng is the only ski racer to win two different awards on the same race piste. Earlier in the season Patrick executed this epic save in the Beaver Creek World Cup downhill race. His score was over 17 points out of a possible 10 for artistry. He earned bonus points for his right leg being straight back when he landed and for his graceful arm positions and landing on one ski without falling. He set a record artistry score with that save that may never be broken. At the World Championships Patrick stayed on both skis and won the gold medal in the downhill. He may not have been as acrobatic in the World Championships, but the gold medal made up for it.

3. Someone Didn't Do His Homework.  During the women's Super-G race, one of the US commentators said that gold medalist Anna Fenninger was from Russia. Anna is from Salzburg, which was still in Austria the last time our intrepid research team looked at a map. Russia and Austria are not neighboring countries by any stretch of the imagination, though St. Petersburg and Salzburg both start with an S and end in "burg."Anna cannot see Russia from her house. At the Super-G award ceremony, 6th place finisher Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was introduced as being from Austria. That mistake is a little more excusable because Liechtenstein borders Austria. But Tina trains with the Swiss team. Switzerland is the other country which borders Liechtenstein. Also at the Super-G award ceremony, the children's choir which sang the Austrian national anthem left out some words. Oops. Did they really think that nobody would notice the missing words? Uh...Maybe 99% of the spectators didn't think anything was amiss with the Austrian national anthem, but Anna certainly noticed.

4. Who Are These Guys? US racer Travis Ganong won the silver medal in the men's downhill and his teammate Steve Nyman was 4th. But very few people seemed to know who they were. Many of the spectators  thought that Bode Miller was the entire US men's team. This was something which separated the true ski racing fans from the people who were in Vail simply to be seen. When Bode went out with an injury in the Super-G, most spectators thought that the whole US team was out. People were demanding refunds simply because they didn't realize that Travis and Steve are now the main men of the US speed team now.

5. Redemption is Sweet. Two seasons ago the Swiss men did not win a single medal in Schladming. In Vail they won gold (Patrick Kueng) and bronze (Beat Feuz) in the downhill race. In just two seasons the Swiss men went from being threatened with relegation to competing in women's races (see this story)  to being medal winners against their fellow men. The only one who was really disappointed was Carlo Janka, who wanted to become the first racer to win gold medals in the men's and women's division at a World Championship. We hope that the Swiss men can keep up their momentum.

6.  Where was Vinnie? Two years ago in Schladming everyone was asking where Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli was when Lindsey Vonn crashed and tore her ACL. This year the same question was asked, but for a different reason. Vinnie and his Freedonian teammates did not get to compete in Vail. Evidently the International Ski Federation (FIS) has stricter criteria about the countries that can enter racers in the World Championships. While the International Olympic Committee allowed the fictional country of Freedonia to enter a team for Sochi, the FIS has a rule that says only racers from real countries can compete at a World Championship. It looks like we will have to wait until the 2018 Olympics to see Vinnie and his fellow Freedonian Mafia enforcers on the race pistes. However, Vinnie and his colleagues were in Vail working as part of the security detail.

Now for our special awards....

1. Best Excuse. Lindsey Vonn may not have won a gold medal in Vail, but she gets one for having the best excuse for not winning. After placing 5th in the downhill race, Ms. Vonn said that that snow was different than it was during the training runs. She did not elaborate any further. Our intrepid research team was put to work trying to figure out what she meant. Was the snow harder, softer, icier, wetter, warmer, colder, or more powdery? It was none of the above. The reason why the snow was different in the real race than it was in training was that it was a different shade of white. During the training runs the snow was eggshell white but on race day it was pearl white. Most recreational skiers would not recognize the subtle difference in shades of white, but World Cup athletes are sensitive to those differences and those little variations can affect performance.

2. Top Witch Doctor. Dr. Djibuku of France, who works with the men's team. French men won a gold medal in the slalom, and bronzes in the Super-G and giant slalom races. Germany's Dr. Mabongo was close behind. Dr. Mabongo works with the German men's team, but in Vail he also worked with the women. German racers won silver in the women's giant slalom and silver and bronze in the men's slalom. Norway's Dr. Mwafume was a distant third. Kjetil Jansrud won a silver medal in the super-combined, but the Norwegians failed to win medals in the other events. You may be asking, what about Austria? Yes, Austria won the most medals, but they did it without a witch doctor.

3. Best Artistry.  No championship report from the Blickbild would be complete without an award for best artistry. Our intrepid reporters didn't see anything worth mentioning until the very last day in the men's slalom race. It was almost to the point where we would not have given an artistry award. But the last day of competition gave us our two winners...Benjamin Raich of Austria and Forerunner Number Three. Benni straddled a gate and did a 360 degree spin before continuing for a short while. He scored 14.2 out of a possible 10 points, earning bonuses for the 360 spin and keeping his momentum and rhythm. His score would have been even higher if he didn't straddle the gate first. That would have broken Patrick Kueng's scoring record. Forerunner Number Three tied Benni's mark.  After losing his skis, he stayed on his feet and slid down doing slalom turns on his boots before coming to a controlled stop on the sideline. He earned bonus points for his beautiful arm positions and for the originality of combining surfing with skiing. Forerunners are not normally eligible for our awards, but his move was so unique it deserved a medal.

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters and researchers are so unique that they deserve medals.

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.

No comments: