Monday, November 30, 2015

North American Race Roundup Week 1

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Ski racing season is now in full swing with five races over the past weekend. We won't report about Aksel Lund Svindal's double win in Lake Louise after coming back from an injury. We also won't talk about how Mikaela Shiffrin obliterated the competition in the two slalom races. Those are things for the others to report. We specialize in talking about the things that the others don't dare to print. Let's find out what really happened in Lake Louise and Aspen last weekend. 

Racing Against Men. Mikaela Shiffrin just announced that she wanted to compare herself to men after trouncing the field in the two Aspen slaloms. Contrary to popular belief, she will not be the first female ski racer to compete against men. Canadian Super-G ace Dustin Cook, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, challenged injured Anna Fenninger to a race on crutches. Anna may be shy in person, but she took Dustin up on the challenge. Anna walked 20 meters without crutches in 12.9 seconds. Evidently Dustin was intimidated by how well Anna did because he has not walked his 20 meters yet. Who knows...The FIS may start holding special races for skiers who are out for the season with injuries. There could be on and off crutches divisions, with men and women directly competing against each other.

Racing Against Men Part 2. In the Aspen giant slalom race Mikaela Shiffrin was in the lead by a large margin. Suddenly, she slid out two gates before the finish. The spectators' gasps of shock were heard as far away as Thailand. Everyone began wondering if German GS specialist Stefan Luitz is Mikaela's new boyfriend. Or maybe she simply has a crush on him and was trying to impress him by missing the second to last gate in Aspen. After all, Stefan was awarded a gold medal in Sochi for his artistry when he tried to limbo under, and then straddle, the last gate before the finish when he had the lead (see this story). Since the FIS does not currently allow women to directly race against men, maybe Mikaela was trying to be Annie Oakley to Stefan's Frank Butler. So Mikaela has compared herself to a male ski racer after all, though Stefan gets the edge for missing the very last gate while Mikaela missed the penultimate one.We at the Blickbild would be willing to sponsor a race between Mikaela and Stefan to decide who is the real Heartbreak Racer.

King of Training. While Mikaela Shiffrin was channeling Stefan Luitz, Norway's Kjetil Jansrud was doing the same with Bode Miller. As you recall, Bode won three of the Olympic downhill training races and was 3rd in a fourth one.  If downhill training races counted, Kjetil would have walked away from Lake Louise with two wins and he could be leading the overall standings. Let's see what happens in Beaver Creek next weekend. Perhaps the FIS would be willing to start giving partial credit for training races. If training races are going to be used for race qualification, then the least the FIS can do is reward those who do well in them but don't win the real races.

The 108% Solution. Mikaela Shiffrin's record-setting margin of victory in the first Aspen slalom was so great, the last three finishers did not receive points for their efforts. FIS rules state that a racer's time must be within 108% of the winner's time. Anything over that, and it's zero points. The purpose of that rule was to keep racers who missed gates and hiking up to make them from getting points. We feel that is wrong. Anyone who has the determination to hike up a steep slope on skis just to go around a  plastic pole should be rewarded, preferably with double or triple points. But we are not the FIS. Back to the original point...If Mikaela carries on beating her opponents by such large margins, the FIS may have to rethink that rule or at least adjust the number. Otherwise, Mikaela would be the only racer to receive points in women's slalom races the way she is going.

Nobody Remembers Who is Second. Except if your name is Frida Hansdotter. Frida got her 137th World Cup second place finish in the second Aspen slalom. OK, we exaggerated. But even the others, especially the tabloids, exaggerate to get their readers' attention. So why can't we. It was really Frida's 13th second place finish in a World Cup race. But it seems like 137 because she has the record for second place finishes and extended it even further on Sunday. If  Fasching can start on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it is only fitting that Frida takes second place in the second slalom of the season. In addition Frida grabbed second place in the slalom standings and second place overall by virtue of her second place finish in the second slalom.

No Supper For You. Lindsey Vonn lost a ski about halfway down the giant slalom course, which gave her a DNF for the day. Her boot came out of the binding. It looks like her HEAD service man, who is supposed to be one of the best in the business, didn't adjust her binding properly. Oops. But he was punished severely for this infraction. First of all, he had to stand on a street corner in Aspen with a sign around his neck which said, "I am a failure. Don't let your children grow up to be like me." Then he had to clean the toilets at the ski area with a toothbrush. After that, he was sent to bed without being allowed to eat supper. In Lake Louise he will make her bindings so tight that even 10 body builders pulling together won't be able to get Lindsey's boot out of her ski.

Witch Doctor Ratings. No Blickbild race report is complete without rating the team witch doctors. This is a tough one. Norway has a new witch doctor, Dr. Mwafume, but the Attacking Vikings will always think of Grandma Jansrud as the team witch doctor. After all, she is the one who supplies the team with ojlmsfjaegger. Dr. Mwafume just gives the athletes weird potions to drink, which they really don't like but drink anyway. Aksel Lund Svindal won both of the Lake Louise races, and both Kjetil Jansrud and Alexander Aamodt Kilde were in the top 10 in the Super-G and top 15 in the downhill. But regardless of which witch doctor the Norwegians follow, they did very well in Lake Louise. However, there is a challenger for best witch doctor of the weekend--Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela Shiffrin's mother. Mrs. Shiffrin is with Mikaela at every race and helps to manage her daughter's career. After doing her best Stefan Luitz imitation in the giant slalom (see above), Mikaela set a record for margin of victory in a slalom race the next day and came close to that in the second slalom race. Everyone was wondering what she had for breakfast. When Mrs. Shiffrin said that she feeds Mikaela Barilla pasta at every meal every day, sales of Barilla pasta in the States soared. Did Mrs. Shiffrin give the pasta magical powers, or is Barilla pasta to Mikaela what ojlmsfjaegger is to the Norwegians? We will find out as the season progresses. 

And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

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