Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Athlete Profile: Mikaela Shiffrin

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Two-time overall globe winner Mikaela Shiffrin started off in the World Cup as a teenage wunderkind and has matured into one of ski racing's superstars. Since her debut in the World Cup, she has kept her girl next door wholesomeness along with great sportsmanship. Mikaela is a real champion because of her graciousness in both victory and defeat as well as an interesting person to interview. One of our intrepid reporters caught up with Mikaela in Killington during a break in her training. Let's find out what she has to say...

BB: Thank you for taking some time to talk with us. You have always been a great interview subject.
Shiffrin: Are you new? I have been interviewed by the Blickbild several times but never met you.
BB: Yes, I am new.
Shiffrin: Are you as intrepid as your predecessors?
BB: Normally I am the one who is supposed to be asking the questions because I am the reporter and you are supposed to answer them because you are the ski racer. But because you are so nice, I will answer your question. I like to think that I am as intrepid as our other reporters. (short pause) Let's start off with a typical day in your life. What do you usually eat for breakfast? Barilla pasta?
Shiffrin: No, I don't usually eat pasta for breakfast. I like to eat an omelet with one of Barilla's sauces. Barilla not only makes wonderful pasta, it makes good sauces.
BB: What is your favourite sauce to put on an omelet?
Shiffrin: Barilla makes a very good arabiatta sauce. It has just the right amount of spiciness to start the day.
BB: Do you eat pasta for lunch and dinner?
Shiffrin: Yes. Barilla makes a variety of pasta noodles and sauces. Sometimes I eat the pasta as a main dish and other times as a side dish.
BB: Do you sometimes mix other things into your pasta like your boyfriend Mathieu Faivre's mother's sheep spleens or ojlmsfjaegger? (see this story) Both of these are good sources of protein, and we all know that athletes need protein for maintaining strong muscles. 
Shiffrin: Not this again with Mathieu's mother's sheep spleens! And what are ojlmsfjaegger?
BB: They are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are eaten in Norway on birthdays as special treats.
Shiffrin: That sounds awful! Who would eat that?
BB: Everyone in Norway. They love ojlmsfjaegger in Norway.
Shiffrin: So those are the funny things that Nina Haver-Loeseth, Ragnhild Mowinckel and Maren Skjoeld are always eating. I will stick to my Barilla pasta.
BB: Speaking of pasta, do you cook it or does your mother?
Shiffrin: Usually Mom cooks for me, but sometimes I like to get creative in the kitchen and cook for myself. Barilla has many delicious recipes.
BB: So your mother still goes on tour with you? Isn't that a bit odd at your age?
Shiffrin: Not really. Italian men live with their mothers until they are 40. A lot of men in the US are in their 30s and 40s and still live in their parents' basements.
BB: Touche! Does your mother make sure you eat all of your vegetables?
Shiffrin: Yes. But I like vegetables, especially in Barilla pasta primavera.
BB: Does your mother tell you that you can't have dessert until you have eaten all of your vegetables?
Shiffrin: No. As I said before, I like vegetables and eat them happily. Ski racers eat a healthy diet with a lot of fruits, vegetables, pasta, and protein.
BB: Does your mother make you sit at the table until you clean your plate?
Shiffrin: No. I am an adult and choose my own portions. I usually eat everything on my plate. These questions are getting a bit absurd.
BB: You should know from previous interviews that the Blickbild specialises in the absurd. If you want the usual questions, talk to Ski Racing magazine. (short pause) You have won three reindeer in Levi. Do you check in on them through the special website that was provided to you?
Shiffrin: Oh yes! I love my reindeer! They are adorable!
BB: Your reindeer Rudolph and Sven look like they would have the perfect size hearts for ojlmsfjaegger. When Mr. Gru grows a little more, he will also have the right size heart. Would you ever--
Shiffrin (horrified): I could never eat my reindeer! How could you even think such a thing?!?
BB: Even if Ragnhild Mowinckel gave you a cookbook with her favourite reindeer meat recipes? Reindeer meat could go well with Barilla pasta. It's an excellent source of protein.
Shiffrin: No!!!!
BB: Do your reindeer get along well with each other? 
Shiffrin: I think so. They seem to play well together when I watch them on the website.
BB: So Rudolph and Sven are not suffering from any emotional disturbance because they have been replaced by the younger and cuter Mr. Gru?
Shiffrin: I don't think that reindeer have mental illnesses. But I am beginning to wonder about you.
BB: Marcel Hirscher's first reindeer definitely had issues with being replaced by a younger model.  Let's move on to a different subject. A couple of seasons ago, Lindsey Vonn's excuse coach offered to work with your mother and you to help you develop creative excuses when you did not win races. Did you ever work with him, and if so, how did those sessions go?
Shiffrin: I worked with him once, but thought that he was weird. When I don't win, it is because someone else was faster than me that day and therefore she deserved her victory. Who would really believe that the wind, only one course inspection, or the snow being the wrong shade of white would cause someone to lose a race?
BB: This is why you are such a refreshing role model for good sportsmanship. You don't make excuses when you lose a race, but you congratulate the winners. Speaking of being a role model, you are a real inspiration for those who don't want to work long hours.
Shiffrin: What!?! As a professional athlete, I work very hard to be in condition and at my best.
BB: The way I see it, you actually work for about 4 to 5 minutes a week. That is the combined time that you are on the course in a weekend of ski racing. Then you finish the race and eat a nice Barilla pasta meal that your mother cooked for you. OK, you have to work weekends, but most people could deal with that for a five-minute a week job. 
Shiffrin: I don't know where you are getting your information, but you are way off the mark. There is a lot of preparation during the week and off-season for those 5 minutes. I spend a lot of time training on snow and in the gym to prepare for my races.
BB: But the general public does not see you training. They only see you racing and think, "I want a job like Mikaela's where I only have to work a few minutes a week then eat pasta,  get a massage, and create dance routines with my physiotherapist afterward." 
Shiffrin: I think that most people realise that being a professional athlete is more than just what happens on race day. First of all, there are many years of training just to make it to the World Cup. Then at the World Cup level, there is increased training to maintain my fitness level. I must train every day in the gym and on snow. If I want to stay the best, I need to train hard. Yes, I get massages, but they are therapeutic. And I eat Barilla pasta because I like it. Come and spend a week with me to see how hard a ski racer really works. I think that I work harder than you!
BB: There's no need to get testy. We at the Blickbild are not only intrepid, we are also hard-working. The real way to settle who works harder is to have a camera crew follow us for a week to show what we really do. OK, you may do more physically demanding work and wake up very early in the morning to train, but we Blickbild reporters have to eat sheep spleens, ojlmsfjaegger, and surstroemming. We travel the world, including  places like Mongolia and the Mojave Desert, to bring our readers the stories that the others don't dare to print. Have you ever been to Mongolia?
Shiffrin: No. But I have been in gyms all over Europe to maintain my fitness.
BB: One more do you feel about the FIS proposal to make parallel races more interesting by giving the competitors guns or even bows and arrows?
Shiffrin: I never heard that. How would I hold both my poles and a gun or bow and arrow? I would need more than two hands. And why would I want to shoot my competitors? They are very nice and I am honoured to be in the World Cup with them.
BB: You wouldn't be shooting them with real bullets; the guns would either have paint balls or use a laser tag system. Even the FIS realises that if the athletes end up shooting each other, there would be no more ski racing. 
Shiffrin: That's a relief. I really like my fellow ski racers, even if they eat weird things. But you never answered how I would hold a gun and poles at the same time.
BB: When you learned to ski, you started off without poles, correct?
Shiffrin: Yes, but I started using poles after a short time like everyone else.
BB: So you know how to ski without poles already. And you have already won parallel races. All you need is a little target shooting practice and you could win parallel races with a gun. 
Shiffrin: I don't know....I would have to try and hit my opponent, who is a moving target, while avoiding being shot in the space of about 20 seconds.
BB: That's right. Think of the TV ratings and how more people in the States will be interested in ski racing because they love their guns. But the best part is the total time that you have to work is less than with a conventional race. 
Shiffrin: I think I will have to work even harder because I would need to ski well without poles and be a good shot. My work hours would double because of both ski training and target practice. There would be no time to sleep.
BB: But your hard work will be rewarded with more Barilla pasta. We all know that Barilla pasta is unbeatable,  just like you. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish you even more success this season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We work hard to ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask.

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. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

The New Start Order Ranking System

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Last weekend in Levi ski fans were confused about Alexander Khoroshilov having bib 46 when he was in the top 15 just a few short seasons ago, while Matej Vidovic, who did not often score World Cup points, had start number 33. Well, dear readers, you are in luck. Our favourite contact at the FIS, Bob, is here to explain to one of our becoming-more-intrepid-but-still-not-yet-as-intrepid-as-our-original reporters how the new ranking system works. We guarantee that you will understand it clearly. Let's find out what Bob has to say...

BB: I heard that the new ranking system, which goes into effect next season, is based on a lot of math. 
Bob: That's right. Here at the FIS we love statistics and even developed our own formula to go along with our statistics. At first we wanted to use the Quadratic Formula, and use FIS points, race results, and potential race results values for a, b, and c--
BB: That sounds interesting, but we just received some breaking news. Marcel Hirscher's new reindeer, Mr. Snow, has disappeared under very mysterious and suspicious circumstances. What do you know about Mr. Snow's disappearance?
Bob: This is the first I heard of it. 
BB: You mean to tell me that you work at the FIS and this is the first you heard of Mr. Snow's disappearance?
Bob: Uh, yes. What happened?
BB: I was hoping that you would tell our readers. We just got a report from Finland that Mr. Snow vanished from his herd this morning.
Bob: Maybe he just wandered off looking for food. Reindeer do that you know. Can we get back to the new ranking system? We at the FIS are very proud of it. 
BB: I'm sure it is a source of pride, and it puts your idle minds to work. After all, it was the FIS who came up with such brilliant ideas like sprint downhills, two-run downhills, three-run slaloms, and only allowing 50 athletes per race. Hmmmm....Maybe your minds should remain idle. 
Bob: We never implemented the three-run slalom or the 50 racer rule. 
BB: And it's a good thing or else we would never have seen Albert Popov and others with bib numbers over 50 in the second run of the Levi men's slalom. But let's get back to Mr. Snow's disappearance. Do you think that Marcel's first reindeer, Ferdinand, was involved? He is not exactly the most mentally stable reindeer in the herd.  (see this story)
Bob: I don't believe that a reindeer has the capability of making a herd mate disappear. Maybe Henrik Kristoffersen kidnapped Mr. Snow to make ojlmsfjaegger from his heart. When Marcel won Ferdinand, Henrik wanted to give Marcel his favourite recipe for reindeer stew.
BB: I remember that well. That was why Ferdinand was afraid to go up onto the podium after the race. But why pick on Henrik? He was not the only Norwegian racer in Levi. Jonathon Nordbotten, Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, and Nina Haver-Loeseth were also in Levi. Perhaps one of them took Mr. Snow. They probably wanted a reindeer because they don't have one. Henrik has Lars.
Bob: But there is a real rivalry between Marcel and Henrik. In fact, Henrik has a motive because he seems to resent that Marcel almost always beats him. Marcel does not have such close competition with the others, so they don't really have a motive to steal Marcel's reindeer. Ms. Haver-Loeseth does not have anything against Marcel because she cannot compete in men's races. Now about our system for ranking racers. We had to discard using the Quadratic Formula because we now have more than three variables that we use for rankings.
BB: We will get to that after we finish talking about Mr. Snow--
Bob: And when will that be?
BB: I ask the questions because I am the reporter and you are the person who works for the FIS.  It looks like you want to accuse the Norwegians of foul play, or simply post-race hunger, in Mr. Snow's disappearance.
Bob: Well the Norwegians taking a reindeer to make stew or ojlmsfjaegger is certainly more plausible than a reindeer being mentally ill and harming his herd mate.
BB: But there are plenty of reindeer in Norway, unless there is a difference in taste between Norwegian and Finnish reindeer. 
Bob: There could be. But about our new ranking system for start order--
BB: And who calls a reindeer Mr. Snow? Was there no blood flow to Marcel's brain after the race because all of his blood was still in his leg muscles? That has to be the most lame name ever. No wonder Mr. Snow disappeared! He was probably embarrassed by his name, so he snuck off to join another herd and change his name. 
Bob: Mystery solved why the reindeer disappeared. I really want to talk about start order ranking. I think that ski racing fans are more interested in that than what happened to a reindeer in Finland.
BB: How do you know what racing fans are interested in? You probably think that a parallel race where the athletes are armed with bows and arrows would be more exciting to ski racing fans than the classical ski racing disciplines.
Bob: Parallel races with bows and, we never thought of that! I'll have to bring that up at our next meeting. I'm sure everyone will love it.
BB: We at the Blickbild are not only intrepid, we are creative. Which is more than we can say about Marcel's name for reindeer number three. By the way, what did Marcel name his new son?
Bob: He never announced the child's name. We thought that was rather strange because other ski racers announce their new babies' names. But maybe Marcel prefers his privacy.
BB: I can see why he did not announce the child's name. If the best he could come up with for his reindeer was Mr. Snow, I'm sure he named his kid something like Mr. Hospital. If he and Laura end up having more than one child, I'd hate to find out what any others will be named. For the child's sake, we can only hope that Laura chose his name. 
Bob: When can I explain the new ranking system?
BB: Now. But make it quick, because we are almost out of time. 
Bob: The new ranking system takes into account the following factors: World Cup results from the previous season, World Cup results from this season, recent Europa Cup results, other continental cup results, FIS race results, World Championship and Olympics results, the racer's country, and the rankings of the other athletes in the field. It is explained by the simple formula: [WCP + 3.81(WCC)+ 1.22 (EC) + CC + 0.87(FIS) + 1.49 (WSC) +1.82 (OG)] * RC +  - OR = FIS points. Our rankings are basically the athlete's FIS points. The lower the FIS points, the higher the ranking.
BB: Sounds very logical.  I'm sure racing fans can figure it out and easily predict any athlete's bib number based on your formula. 
Bob: Don't you want to know how we assigned a numerical value to each country, how we figured the original variables for this formula, or how we converted Olympic and World Championship placement to ranking points? It took a lot of people many hours to come up with it.
BB: I'm sure it did, but you left out Junior World Championship and Topolino results.  Shouldn't they also figure into the rankings, especially for younger racers?
Bob: All that time spent developing this formula for figuring rankings and start order!  Now we will have to go back and start all over again. I can't believe we left those things out! I hope that we can come up with a new formula by the start of next season.
BB: I'm sure you can. I have complete confidence in you and your other colleagues. You don't seem to have a lot of real work to do, so you should have plenty of time to fix your formula. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. We almost learned about why Matej Vidovic had a better bib than Alexander Khoroshilov in Levi. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't have a lame name. 

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. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Levi Reindeer Rage

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

After over a year of our not-as-intrepid-as-our-original reporters disappearing, we found some new ones. However, they actually worked for real news sources and have journalistic standards. But we had to take what we could get. We sent one of these new reporters to Levi, where there is some strife in the herd which supplies reindeer to the slalom race winners. A photo of Marcel Hirscher's second reindeer, Leo, was posted on social media. Marcel's first reindeer, Ferdinand, was nowhere to be seen afterward.  Rumours abound: did Leo kill Ferdinand, did Ferdinand run away and simply disappear, was he sold to the Norwegians for ojlmsfjaegger, or did something else sinister happen to him? Our not-very-intrepid-compared-to-his-predecessors reporter was sent to Finland to investigate this matter. He was able to score an interview with Matti, the reindeer herder who owns all of the reindeer which the racers in Levi win. Matti appeared with Leo by his side. Let's find out what he has to say....

BB: On what date did Ferdinand disappear from your herd?
Matti: He never disappeared from my herd. In fact, he is alive and very well.
BB: Then he didn't die or run away to Norway?
Matti: No, he is still in my herd.
BB: So he was not murdered, nor did anything else sinister happen to him?
Matti: No, he is very much alive and in perfect health. 
BB: How can you tell if Ferdinand is still in your herd? All of your reindeer look alike to me.
Matti: Not this again! I know every single one of my reindeer and can easily tell them apart. Ferdinand is still in my herd and I have the honour of taking care of him, just like with all of the other reindeer who have been awarded to Levi race winners. 
BB: So why is Leo here with you for our interview and not Ferdinand? Do you like Leo better, or is Ferdinand being punished for something?
Matti: I love all of my reindeer equally. They are my babies! Don't you love your children equally?
BB: Of course I do. Hey, I'm supposed to be the one asking the questions here. Is Ferdinand being punished?
Matti: Of course not! How would I punish a reindeer? 
BB: How would I know? I'm a reporter, not a reindeer herder. You are supposed to know that stuff. What kind of reindeer herder are you if you don't know how to punish a recalcitrant reindeer?
Matti: I happen to be a very good reindeer herder! Otherwise, the FIS would not have entrusted me to take care of the Levi winners' reindeer. What kind of reporter are you for not getting any background information about me or my herd?
BB: I happen to be an excellent reporter! Intrepid too. And I ask the questions because I am the reporter and you answer them because you are the reindeer herder. Now that that's settled, why is Ferdinand with the rest of the herd and not with you and Leo now?
Suddenly Leo starts making a lot of noises. Matti turns his attention to Leo.
Matti: Really? No! That can't be!
BB: What is he saying? 
Matti: Leo said that after his photo was posted on social media, Ferdinand drew a stick figure reindeer and wrote, "Leo is a poopy head" on a tree. 
BB: Wait a minute! How do I know you're not making this up?
Matti: Just like a parent knows what a baby who can't talk yet is saying, I know what my reindeer are telling me. They are my babies. And they all get along very well with each other. 
BB: But a reindeer drawing a picture and writing on a tree? Why don't we bring Ferdinand here to get his side of the story?
(there is a break in the interview while Matti fetches Ferdinand)
BB: Are you really Ferdinand, or another reindeer that Matti picked out of the herd to fool me since I wouldn't know the difference?
Matti: Of course this is Ferdinand! I am offended that you are questioning my honesty. My reindeer are my babies and I can tell which one is Ferdinand. 
BB: Ferdinand, did you draw a picture of a reindeer and write, "Leo is a poopy head" on a tree?
Ferdinand (speaking though Matti): Of course not! How can I draw pictures or write? I have hooves, not fingers! How can I hold a pencil with a hoof? Leo is delusional.
Leo: I am not! You just hate me because I am younger and cuter than you. 
Ferdinand: You are just jealous because Tanja likes me better than you. She likes age and experience over youth and immaturity.
BB: Who is Tanja?
Matti: One of my other reindeer. 
Leo: Do you know what else Ferdinand did? He put a copy of 365 Ways to Cook Reindeer in my special sleeping spot.
Ferdinand: How could I put a book where you like to sleep? First of all, I would have to leave the herd, go into town, buy a book, bring it back, and put it in Leo's sleeping spot. I would think that Matti would notice if I was missing. Secondly, that sounds like something that Henrik Kristoffersen would do. Anyway, I am a reindeer and cannot read. 
BB: You seem to be rather intelligent, so maybe you really can read but you're holding back because you don't want to appear intellectually superior to your herd mates. 
Matti: Reindeer can't read. Anyway, if Ferdinand could read, he would be wearing glasses so that he would look smarter than the others. As we can see, he is not wearing glasses. Ergo, he cannot read. 
BB: Right. Unless--
Leo: Then how do you explain the letter that I received with Grandma Jansrud's recipe for ojlmsfjaegger*? Ferdinand is the only one who would think to do such a thing. He has been trying to get rid of me since my photo was posted on Facebook. 
Matti: What is going on here? My reindeer have always gotten along well. And when did they learn to read?
BB: I'll tell you what else is happening here--
Ferdinand: OK! I confess! Yes I drew the picture, put the book in Leo's sleeping spot, and sent the letter with the ojlmsfjaegger recipe. And I can read, as can Leo. Do you want to know why I did those things? I need ski racing fans to realise that I still exist. Leo is not Marcel Hirscher's only reindeer. I was his reindeer first. Leo, you better watch out! You may be the young and cute one now, but if Marcel wins another reindeer this weekend, you will be yesterday's news. Look at what happened to Lindsey Vonn's dogs Leo and Bear after she got Lucy. She stashed them away somewhere in Colorado and only takes Lucy everywhere she goes. Leo and Bear could have run away or died, but nobody would notice or care.
BB: What about Mikaela Shiffrin's reindeer Rudolph and Sven? Wouldn't they have the same issues as you two?
Ferdinand: No. Rudolph and Sven are ordinary reindeer and don't know how to read or write. If Mikaela won a third reindeer, Rudolph and Sven would get along fine with him, unless they all fight over a female. Then all bets are off. 
BB: You not only have reindeer who can read, but you seem to have the world's only psychotic reindeer, although he does have a point with Lindsey Vonn's dogs. You really need to find a family therapist who specialises in reindeer herds.
Matti: I don't think they have family therapists for reindeer. They are just for people.
BB: Then I suggest you find a good human family therapist who will take your reindeer too. You will need one, especially if Marcel Hirscher wins again in Levi. Two reindeer who can read, one of which is psychotic, will be a deadly combination going after a third reindeer. Good luck getting your herd back in order. You will need it. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters can read, but they are not psychotic.

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.

* For our newer readers, ojlmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce. They are eaten in Norway on birthdays.