Saturday, December 26, 2015

Questions and Answers December 2015

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Ski racing season is in full swing now. Our mailbag is full of letters from ski racing fans all over the world. Here to answer our readers's questions is our very own Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers. Let's find out what our readers and Answer Man have to say.
Question 1: Lindsey Vonn said that she was able to finish the slalom portion of the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere with only two days of slalom training. Why are the slalom specialists training so hard if you only need two days of training to make it down the course?
Answer Man: That is a very good question. The short answer would be that even an advanced beginning skier could ski on a slalom course with just a few lessons, so Ms. Vonn's feat is not so extraordinary. But the slalom specialists go fast and look good while doing so, which is why they train so much.
BB: Do you think that ski schools will start promoting "Absolute Beginner to World Cup Slalom Course Finisher in Two Days" programs? After all, there are "Couch Potato to Marathon Finisher in 12 Weeks" training plans.
Answer Man: That is a possibility. A World Cup slalom course is much shorter than the 42.2 kilometer (26.2 miles) marathon distance, so a person would need less time and training to ski down it. If it takes 12 weeks to go from a junk food eating sloth to marathon finisher, I think that two days for a beginning skier to slalom course finisher sounds about right.
BB: Those quickie marathon programs are designed to get a runner to the finish line with no regard for finishing time. Would a two-day Beginner to Slalom Course Finisher course have the same goal?
Answer Man: Yes. The goal would be to make all of the gates and finish the course. Speed would  not be an issue. Just like elite marathon runners train hard for their races, it is the same for World Cup slalom specialists. Keep in mind that Michaela Kirchgasser, who is a technical specialist, had the best slalom time in the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere. Just like recreational runners are not elite athletes, beginning skiers are not either. Therfore, they just need a short training period to make it to the finish line. Watch for ski magazines and online skiing forums to start publishing their own "Absolute Beginner to Slalom Race Finisher in Two Days" programs soon so that every skier can be like Lindsey Vonn.

Question 2: Why was Tina Weirather disqualified from the downhill portion of the Alpine combined race in Val d'Isere?
Answer Man: This time it was not for wearing her arm guards on the outside of her speed suit instead of on the inside. She learned her lesson about the FIS's high-tech arm guard detection methods after wearing her arm guards in the wrong place.
BB: What does it matter where a racer wears her arm guards? Isn't the important thing that she is wearing them?
Answer Man: If a racer wears her arm guards in the wrong place, it could set a dangerous precedent. Soon everyone will be wearing them in the wrong place and then it would be total chaos. What is the point of having rules if nobody is willing to follow them?
BB: Good point. Back to Val d'Isere. Why was Tina disqualified?
Answer Man: It appears that she was wearing a training suit instead of a racing suit.
BB: Again, who cares which suit Tina was wearing? Nobody cares about Lindsey Vonn or Julia Mancuso wearing non-official US team racing suits.
Answer Man: Just like with the arm guards, it would set a precedent of letting the athletes wear their training suits in races. If the FIS is going to have a Big Book of Rules, those rules must be enforced. It looks like Tina was trying to ignore the rules, but the FIS has stealth technology that detects whether an athlete is wearing a training or racing suit.

Question 3: Some of the athletes in Val d'Isere only did the downhill portion of the Alpine combined race? Isn't there a penalty for skipping the slalom?
Answer Man: There is currently no penalty for only doing the downhill or Super-G portion of a combined race. Everyone knows that a certain percentage of the athletes use the downhill portion of a combined race as an extra training run. There is nothing in the Big Book of Rules that prohibits this.
BB: Do those who skip the slalom portion take advantage of an extra training run because they are slow learners?
Answer Man: Some people might think so. But I think that they are actually smarter than average  because they found a way to sneak in an extra training run.
BB: Let's imagine that you ran the FIS and could come up with any way to encourage athletes to do both parts of a combined race. What would you propose?
Answer Man: If I ran the FIS, any racer who skipped the slalom portion of a combined race would have 250 points deducted from his or her total. If that racer had less than 250 points, then a 50% reduction would be fair. The exception would be for sudden illness or injury during the speed portion, which would be verifed by three independent doctors who are not associated with that racer's team. If there is no injury or illness, the athlete would be put on a pillory in front of the stands with a sign around his or her neck that says, "I am a quitter."
BB: That sounds a bit harsh!
Answer Man: Not really. At least we are not arming the fans with rotten fruit to throw at the person in the pillory. That would be a bit extreme.  But remember, the pillory worked quite well in the Middle Ages and it could still be effective today.

Question 4: Now that Lara Gut has taken the lead in the overall standings, will there be an invasion of Ticino?
Answer Man: I don't think so. The people who attempted to invade Slovenia ended up at the Lubyanka prison instead of in Ljubljana. They still have not been found. The only ones who benefitted from the attempted invasion were the elephants, who are fat and happy in the Salzburg Zoo.
BB: Wouldn't you think that the lesson learned from the failed invasion of Slovenia was that reading a map is a good thing to do before setting out?
Answer Man: It is always good to read a map, though the ancient Roman legions made it all the way to Great Britain without Google Maps or a GPS system. But I can only imagine that anyone trying to invade Ticino would end up in Torino or even Toledo.
BB: Toledo? The one in Spain or the one in Ohio?
Answer Man: You never know.
BB: Do you think that the whole country of Switzerland will be bombed? Besides Lara taking the lead in the overall standings, Fabienne Suter is tied for the lead in the downhill standings.
Answer Man: Switzerland hasn't been invaded in many, many years. You have to remember that every able-bodied man in Switzerland is part of the National Guard and will defend their country. You don't want to mess with Swiss men. For any invading force, the upside is if they bomb the whole country, they are bound to hit Ticino. But...they have to ensure that they are reading their maps correctly and not accidentally bombing Swaziland. That could cause an international incident.

Question 5: There was a Norwegian podium Super-G sweep in Val Gardena last weekend and the Norwegian trainer set the course. Nobody said anything about that. But people got upset when Marcel Hirscher won a Super-G race in Beaver Creek on a course that the Austrian trainer set. Why is there this double standard?
Answer Man: Everyone loves the Norwegians. They are a small team that produces great ski racers and they have given the world ojlmsfjaegger. Also, ski racing fans dislike Marcel Hirscher because he wins too much.
BB: He can't help it if he is consistent. Marcel has also been answering his critics by doing Super-G races. When was the last time you saw Aksel Lund Svindal or Kjetil Jansrud doing a slalom race?
Answer Man: the slalom part of a combined race. They don't look very graceful doing slalom, but they make it down the course without a lot of slalom training.
BB: Are you saying that Lindsey Vonn is not the only one who does just a little bit of slalom training to prepare for a combined race?
Answer Man: Yes, that's right.
BB: So ski schools and online ski forums should amend their "Beginner to World Cup Slalom Course Finisher" programs to say that students will be just like Lindsey and the Norwegian speed racers?
Answer Man: Hmmmm...I suppose they would have to include the Norwegian speed racers in their promotions.

Question 6: What are the Norwegians eating for breakfast these days? Aksel Lund Svindal came back from a death-defying injury, Kjetil Jansrud is having a great season, Henrik Kristoffersen is leading the slalom standings, Alexander Aamodt Kilde had his first podium finish, and Nina Loeseth is on a hot streak.
Answer Man: The Norwegian team is being well-supplied with ojlmsfjaegger. Evidently, it is not just for birthdays anymore on the Norwegian ski team. Or perhaps they eat it every day because every day is somebody's birthday. In addition to Grandma Jansrud, other Norwegian grandmothers are doing their part to keep the team eating their ojlmsfjaegger.
BB: Can you explain what ojlmsfjaegger are for our newer readers?
Answer Man: Of course. They are cubes of pickled reindeer hearts covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce, which are eaten on birthdays.
BB: Ojlmsfjaegger were originally considered a banned substance by the FIS. But they changed their mind and allowed the Norwegians to eat them. Will the FIS consider banning them again because the Norwegian team is having a super season?
Answer Man: We all know that the FIS is always right, even when it's wrong.  I think for now ojlmsfjaegger will still be legal.
BB: Norway got a witch doctor this season, Dr. Mwafume. What effect has he had?
Answer Man: He has obviously had a positive effect on the team's performance. He could even beat Dr. Mabongo for the Dave Seville Witch Doctor of the Year Award. But the Norwegian team seems to think that as long as they have their ojlmsfjaegger, they will keep on winning.
BB: Will other teams drop their witch doctors and start eating ojlmsfjaegger? Or does it only have a good effect on Norwegians?
Answer Man: Somehow I don't forsee other teams eating ojlmsfjaegger. It's definitely an acquired taste. I think that teams will stick with their witch doctors. Whenever the Norwegian team has a birthday party and invites racers from other teams, the non-Norwegians refuse to touch the ojlmsfjaegger. I know that you have tried the ones that Grandma Jansrud made, and lived to tell the tale, but most of the World Cup racers are not as intrepid as you.
BB: Of course not! The Blickbild has the most intrepid reporters in the business! Well, it looks like we are out of time and questions to answer. I want to thank our Answer Man for taking the time to answer everyone's questions. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters had more than two days of training to become the intrepid journalists that they are.

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.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Attack of the Killer Drone

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
By now everyone who went online in the past 24 hours has heard about the drone that crashed just behind Marcel Hirscher during his second slalom run in Madonna di Campiglio. We would normally avoid this story like we would swimming in the ocean surrounded by sharks on a feeding frenzy because the others have already covered it. But, as usual, we have our own unique perspective on what happened and whose drone it was. One of our intrepid reporters went to Madonna di Campiglio and talked to our old friend, retired Schladming police chief and current special consultant on crime for the FIS, Hermann Mayer. Let's find out what he has to say.
BB: Herr Mayer, it is nice to see you again. When were you called in to investigate what we are calling the Killer Drone?
Mayer: I was actually in the stands watching the race. That is one of the benefits of being a special consultant to the FIS. I get free race tickets any time I want them.
BB: I see that you have two dogs with you now.
Mayer: Yes. Fido is starting to get older and it will soon be time for him to retire. I'll miss him because he has been my faithful canine companion for many years. But I am training Spot to replace him.
BB: Spot? What kind of name is that for a bloodhound? That is normally a name for a Dalmatian.
Mayer: I know, but I love American dog names. Every Austrian names his dog Bello, so I wanted something different. When Spot retires, the next dog will be Rover.
BB: What can you tell us about this drone? Who let it go over the race course?
Mayer: The media wants you to believe that it was a TV camera drone. But after examining the scene, there could be something more sinister afoot.
BB: So you don't believe that it was a TV drone?
Mayer: There is some circumstantial evidence that someone was specifically targeting Marcel Hirscher.
BB: Why would someone go after Marcel? He is a great guy. I can't imagine the Italians going after him because he donated race winnings to Italian earthquake victims a few seasons ago.
Mayer: The Italians have nothing against Marcel and actually admire his consistency. But the first piece of evidence is that the drone crashed while Marcel was racing. Why did it crash during his run and not when any of the others were going?
BB: I see. So it specifically went after Marcel and not the other Austrians?
Mayer: Right. Remember, a few seasons ago Tina Maze received death threats. Even the great Annemarie Moser-Proell received death threats in her time. So it is possible that someone was sending Marcel a message.
BB: Who would do such a thing, especially on international TV for all to see?
Mayer: We have several suspects. The first is Ted Ligety or one of his fans.
BB: Why would Ted go after Marcel? It is common knowledge that they don't like each other. But I can't imagine Ted trying to kill a competitor. I'd think that he would let his skis do the talking.
Mayer: Marcel is leading the giant slalom standings and that is usually Ted's globe. Also, one of our investigators found out that one of Ted's firms is developing drone technology. His drones are using the latest camera technology and will be even better than what the TV stations are currently using. Ted wants his drones to be used instead of the current FIS-approved ones.
BB: I thought he was just working on developing airbag systems.
Mayer: That's what he wants everyone to believe. But we sent an undercover investigator to Slytech and found out that they are also developing a new type of drone.
BB: So you think that Ted or someone working for his firm purposely crashed the drone to make it look inferior to his own product?
Mayer: That is a good possibility. Ted had already left the race venue after the first run, but he could have directed someone else to crash the drone, rattle Marcel, and promote his new product.
BB: Are the any other suspects?
Mayer: We are also checking the alibis of the Norwegian team. It is in Henrik Kristoffersen's best interest to get Marcel out of the picture to make it easier for him to win the slalom globe this season.
BB: It looks like Henrik is doing a good job of taking the lead in the slalom standings on his own. He does not need to eliminate his competitors.
Mayer: If Grandma Jansrud falls ill and cannot supply the team with ojlmsfjaegger, Henrik needs to have a backup plan.
BB: Somehow I don't see Henrik needing a backup plan to win races this season.
Mayer: But Aksel Lund Svindal might. It is a very tight race for the overall globe this season.
BB: I can't imagine Aksel trying to kill a competitor. He is one of the nicest men in the World Cup.
Mayer: Let's just say there were some not so nice feelings after Marcel won a Super-G race on a shortened course that happened to be set by his trainer.
BB: Wait a minute! Norway just had a Super-G podium sweep and the Norwegian trainer set that course. But I don't see Marcel going after the Norwegians.
Mayer: The Norwegians could be sending the message that the speed disciplines are their domain. Anyway, we found some suspicious markings on the drone pieces that could resemble a Norwegian flag if you hold them at just the right angle and have good lighting.
BB: Could someone have drawn the Norwegian flag on the drone to deflect attention from the real perpetrator?
Mayer: We are examining that possibility. But there was also very tiny print that said, "Made in Norway" on it. In addition, there was a stick man skiing with the word, "Marcel" with a circle and slash through it. For now the Norwegians are our number one suspects.
BB: What about other suspects?
Mayer: After the race we searched people leaving the area for remote controls. Nobody had one, but we found one in the trash. We now have it at our lab and are dusting it for fingerprints and checking for DNA.
BB: There are a lot of ski racing fans who dislike Marcel Hirscher. Do you think that one of them could have sent the drone after him?
Mayer: That is a possibility. But we found that most fans prefer to vent their dislike of Marcel in online ski racing forums.
BB: What about the Swedes? After all, they are the ones who kidnapped the German witch doctor at the Schladming World Championships.
Mayer: We ruled them out. The way their men's team is performing, you would think that they were still under the witch doctor's curse. None of them are close to Marcel in the slalom standings.
BB: What about Felix Neureuther? I know that Felix and Marcel are friends, but you never know what your friends would do to you behind your back. Felix could still be angry over losing the slalom globe the last two seasons to Marcel.
Mayer: Felix was also ruled out as a suspect. But I could possibly see Fritz Dopfer going after Marcel. Perhaps he sees Marcel as a symbolic representation of the Austrians' failed attempt to bring him back to the OeSV. We will definitely be investigating that lead.
BB: Do you think that the drone was flying over the race course as a promotion for the new Star Wars movie?
Mayer: We thought of that because what is more fitting for Star Wars than a drone? But we realized that most people who are into Star Wars are more into dressing up like the characters and going to comic book conventions than attending a ski race.
BB: Last year there was a Naughty Stone that went rogue and was going after Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn. Do you think that the drone was acting on its own and decided to attack Marcel for the fun of it? The Naughty Stone was nominated for the witch doctor of the year award for its powers. Could it be that this drone was thinking, "If a rock can get nominated for witch doctor of the year, then I could too?"
Mayer: That is also an interesting point, which we will be investigating. We will examine all of the pieces in our lab and figure out how it was working.
BB: Will fans start being searched for drones and their controls at races?
Mayer: I think so and also TV people. Effective immediately, TV networks will no longer be allowed to use camera drones. Ski fans at races should expect long waits to get in so we can check their pockets and bags for drones, remote controls and voodoo dolls.
BB: Voodoo dolls?
Mayer: Yes. Someone could be using a voodoo doll to direct a drone instead of a normal controller. You can't be too careful these days.
BB: That is true. When you figure out who the drone belonged to, you must contact us so we can tell our readers.
Mayer: I will do that, along with Fido and Spot.
BB: Speaking of Fido and Spot, I will have to bring a double batch of dog treats to our next meeting. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Herr Mayer, I want to thank you for another interesting interview. I'm sure you and your colleagues will figure out who crashed the drone on the race course. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We are not developing our own drone technology, so we didn't crash the drone. Anyway, we like Marcel.
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.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Battle of the Sexes: Austrian/Canadian Style

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The ski press has written about Lindsey Vonn's desire to race against men and Mikaela Shiffrin's hope to be a forerunner in Schladming to see how she compares to the men. We will avoid those topics like we would two dogs fighting over a Frisbee. Instead, we will focus on a real competition where a male and female ski racer are facing off against each other. Injured Canadian Super-G star Dustin Cook challenged Austrian superstar Anna Fenninger to a race on crutches. Anna answered the challenge and hobbled 20 meters in 12.9 seconds. Dustin responded by going down a homemade hill on a specially-modified sled. Who won this epic battle? Was Dusting cheating by using a sled and not his legs? Well, you are in luck. One of our intrepid reporters was able to interview both Anna and Dustin using a satellite link. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: We at the Blickbild, as well as most ski racing fans, were saddened to hear about your injuries. How is your rehab and recovery coming along?
Cook: As well as I expected it to. I hope to be back strong next season.
Fenninger: I will be a long time off of skis but my recovery is going at the right pace.
BB: Dustin, what inspired you to challenge Anna to a race on crutches?
Cook: She seems like a nice lady with a good sense of humor. I had a feeling that she would go along with it.  
BB: And your intuition was right. Anna, do you think that Dustin was cheating because he was using a sled and you used your legs?
Fenninger: Well...we could have had a more direct comparison if we both did the same thing.
Cook: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to give the impression that I was cheating. But I have a possible solution. Why don't I go 20 meters on either my legs or with crutches and you sled down a hill? Then the winner could be decided by combined times of each event.
BB: That is an excellent idea! 
Fenninger: Would you come to Austria and use the same course I did, and then would I go to Canada and use your sledding hill?
Cook: That would be ideal. If we used different walking tracks and hills, they could not be directly comparable because of weather conditions and height differences of the hills.
BB: So you are proposing that you fly to Austria and Anna flies to Canada to complete the challenge? Who is going to pay for this?
Cook: I could pay for it. 
BB: That is a very generous offer. But suppose that you don't wish to fly because of the discomfort on your legs? Could you think of something that you could both do that is the same?
Cook: How about a chariot race?
Fenninger: A chariot race? Where are we going to find two chariots?
Cook: Since I am not training or racing, I could go online and look up museums in both Canada and Austria that have Roman antiquities. They are bound to have some chariots that we could borrow. There are plenty of horses in our countries to pull the chariots. We also have tracks where we could set up the race.
BB: Isn't the point of this challenge to see who is the best on crutches or under their own power? Anyway, chariots would be painful on the knees because they are not exactly smooth. You could also fall out and injure other body parts. 
Cook: You are absolutely right. What about a camel race?
Fenninger: Then the camels are racing against each other.. We need something different that is directly against each other.
Cook: Anna, you are right again. Let's see....what about an auto race? We could then compete to see who is the fastest driver.
BB: That sounds like an interesting idea. But the concept is for you to compete head-to-head. Anyway, there is the problem with deciding if the car will have an automatic transmission or stick shift. 
Cook: True. We want this competition to be fair for both of us.
Fenninger: Dustin, are you always this nice?
Cook: Well, I am Canadian. We are supposed to be nice. When I was a kid and was rude to other people, my mother would beat the living daylights out of me.
BB: That doesn't sound very nice at all. In fact, that sounds downright un-Canadian.
Cook: You're right. But if the Blickbild can do parody, I can make fun of my upbringing. Anyway, my parents were really both very nice people. And if you think I'm nice, you need to meet Jan Hudec. He reinforces the stereotype of Canadians being nice.
BB: Back to our original dilemma of getting you two to compete against each other. 
Cook: I know! We can have a kangaroo boxing match. I can fly to Austria, where there are plenty of kangaroos.
Fenninger: The only kangaroos in Austria are in zoos.
BB: Anna, you are from Salzburg and I know that the Salzburg Zoo has at least two kangaroos.
Cook: I'm very sorry. I confused Austria with Australia. Please forgive me. I'll make it up to you by making Canadian and Austrian t-shirts for the kangaroos.
BB: Hold up here! A kangaroo boxing match is not a competition between you two, it is between the kangaroos.
Fenninger: But the kangaroos will have t-shirts so we'll know which one represents Dustin and which one represents me.
BB: You're missing the point. We are trying to find a way to directly compare you two, not a couple of kangaroos.
Fenninger: Back in the Middle Ages, a nobleman would designate a champion to fight for him. Why can't we have the kangaroos as our champions?
BB: OK, let's suppose that you have kangaroo champions. Are they going to box, or will they have an actual race against each other?
Cook: Well, I suppose the fair thing would be to have the kangaroos hop a certain distance on a pre-measured course. But if that doesn't work because the kangaroos start fighting with each other, we can have them box.
Fenninger: We will need a referee to either keep time in a hopping race or boxing match. (to the reporter). Are you intrepid enough to be our referee?
BB: Of course I am! The Blickbild has the most intrepid reporters in the business!
Cook: Shall we have this match during the Christmas holidays?
Fenninger: Sounds good to me!
Cook: Here's what we'll do. Anna, can you borrow two kangaroos from the Salzburg Zoo?
Fenninger: I can talk to the zoo. I'm sure they will lend them to me.
Cook: I'll get the t-shirts made. Since the kangaroos are from the Salzburg Zoo, I'll fly out there with the shirts and we can take it from there.
BB: This isn't quite what everyone had in mind when your fans wanted to see you race on crutches, but it will do. I'll do my part as your referee. We will see you in Salzburg for the final Cook vs Fenninger showdown. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Anna and Dustin, I want to thank you for this interview. We at the Blickbild wish both you a full and speedy recovery so we can see you back in the World Cup. It just isn't the same without you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters do their own interviews. They don't hire a champion.

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 Twitte as bostonblickbild.