Saturday, April 4, 2015

New Competition Format

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Our friends at the International Ski Federation (FIS) are concerned that the true all-around ski racer who can get on the podium in every discipline is a dying breed. Ski racers now are either speed or technical specialists. In order to reverse this trend, the FIS is planning on testing out a new competition format. It will be discussed at the annual summer meeting. Here to talk with one of our intrepid reporters about this exciting new potential change is FIS president GianFranco Kasper. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: It's nice to see you again Herr Kasper.
Kasper: Likewise
BB: A couple of seasons ago the FIS proposed changing the competition format so that every race is a parallel slalom on a ramp. Whatever happened to that? (see this story)
Kasper: The development of the ramps is not coming along as quickly as we expected it to. We ran into technical problems with the larger ramps for the speed disciplines. There are also logistical difficulties with transporting enough snow to warm weather places like Los Angeles or Las Vegas.
BB: What have you proposed instead?
Kasper: We took our cue from the recent Red Bull Skills event. The racers who participated did all four disciplines, which the fans loved.
BB: I thought that the FIS doesn't care about the fans.
Kasper: Of course we do because fans generate TV ratings. Nothing is more important to the FIS than TV ratings.
BB: Uh...what about safety?
Kasper: Everyone knows that safety is also a priority at the FIS. That goes without saying.
BB: Right. Tell our readers about the next great thing in ski racing.
Kasper: All races will consist of the four disciplines. Racers will do either one or two runs, but all four disciplines will be incorporated into those runs.
BB: What?!?
Kasper: It would be like having super-combined races but all in one. A lot of fans really like the super-combined for some reason which we at the FIS can't understand. Fans are also grumbling because the same people win the technical and speed races and they are switching to sports with more unpredictable outcomes like curling.
BB: Isn't the FIS responsible for the same people winning women's speed races for example? Most of the women's downhill courses are made for larger gliders and the smaller women don't stand a chance.
Kasper: We can't help it if certain racers are popular with the fans. The only way for them to remain popular, and keep our ratings up, is for them to keep winning and setting new records.
BB: Wait a minute! You just contradicted yourself. First you said that fans are getting bored with the same people winning. Then you said that fans like to see the same racers win all the time. Which is it?
Kasper: You have to remember that I'm the head of the FIS, so I'm always right even if it looks like I'm contradicting myself. Of course the fans of the racers who always win want to see them keep on winning. But others, who are old school in their thinking, want to see others on the top step of the podium. At the FIS we have to cater to both sets of fans, because we want ski racing to get more and more popular.
BB: In other words, the FIS is doing its part to ensure that certain athletes win.
Kasper: We would never engage in open collusion. Let's get back to the original topic.
BB: Good idea. You said that there are proposals for races of either one or two runs that incorporate all four disciplines. How would that work? Start with one-run races first.
Kasper: If the one-run proposal goes through, each run will consist of four parts, each of which will be a different discipline. One part of the course will be a downhill, one part a Super-G, one part giant slalom, and the fourth part slalom.
BB: What would the order be? Would they start slowly with the slalom part or quickly with the downhill?
Kasper: It would depend on the hill. For safety reasons, it would probably be best to start with the slalom and finish with either the downhill or Super-G. But a one-run race could also start with a giant slalom.
BB: It seems like each segment would be very short and a bit of a rip-off.
Kasper: True. But if every World Cup racer is participating, that would be over 100 per race instead of the usual 50 to 70. We would have to get everyone through before it got dark.
BB: I'm not so sure that the fans would go for one run with a little bit of each discipline.
Kasper: The other possibility is a 2-run model. Each run would be half speed and half technical, for example, downhill and GS in one run and Super-G and slalom in the other. In order to get everyone through in a timely manner, we could have two separate courses. Half of the racers would race on the first course, then switch to the second and vice versa.
BB: What if a ski area doesn't have two runs that are meet the standards for a World Cup race?
Kasper: Then we would switch to a venue that has two good runs. Or we could use the same course for both runs and just make the race an all-day affair. We could even have one run during the day and the second run under the lights.
BB: I see. Wouldn't that be a bit dangerous to have a nighttime speed race?
Kasper: Another proposal is to have the two speed disciplines in one run and the two technical disciplines in the other. It would be like a super super-combined race! What would be even more fun to watch would be alternating two disciplines within a run, for example starting with slalom, changing to GS, then back to slalom, and then finishing with GS.
BB: I'm sure that you and your colleagues will figure out all of the details in your summer meeting. One thing about these new races with every discipline is that it would require the athletes to do every race. There are about 40 races a season and it gets tiring. Very few now do every race. Did anyone ask the athletes what they thought of this proposal?
Kasper: The ones who participated at the Red Bull event had a great time. I'm sure that all of the athletes would enjoy themselves at every race.
BB: In other words, nobody asked the athletes what they thought of doing 40 races a season.
Kasper: If Tina Maze could do it, the others can too. World Cup racers are supposed to be professional athletes, not couch potatoes.
BB: How would the points work?
Kasper: We will stay with the current system of the top 30 racers earning points.
BB: What about the small globes? Would they be eliminated?
Kasper: Not at all. We will still have the small globes and even bring back the one for the super-combined.
BB: How would you do that if all of the races consist of the four disciplines and there is no more super-combined?
Kasper: Swiss timing of course. We will keep the split times of every race. It will be easy to figure out who had the fastest downhill segment, the fastest slalom segment, etc. in each race. The racers with the fastest average combined times in each discipline will win the globes. The super-combined globe will go to the racers with the fastest average downhilll and slalom times. We will be giving the fans what they want--all-around skiers but also those who are good in a particular discipline.
BB: It sounds very complex.
Kasper: It does at first. But the idea behind this new format is entertainment, pure and simple. When the fans are entertained, they are happy and willing to spend money on race tickets. Our TV ratings will soar, which will make the FIS happy. It's a win-win situation for everyone.
BB: Let's see how this proposal plays out in your summer meeting. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Kasper, I want to thank you for another interesting interview. It is always a pleasure to talk to you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We would never change our format for the sake of TV ratings. Oh wait....we're not on TV.

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