A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
The Boston Blickbild has received 10 bags of letters plus thousands of e-mails and tweets commenting on Italian skier Christof Innerhofer’s punishment in Kitzbuehel. Even though Innerhofer’s punishment of having to be the 46th starter in today’s classic downhill race seems rather harsh, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS) he violated the rules and had to be penalized. The FIS evidently makes no exceptions for triple world championship medalists. If our readers think that Innerhofer’s penalty was over the top, there are five new rules that the FIS will be implementing starting next season. The Blickbild was able to get an exclusive interview with FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper about these five new rules and the penalties for violating them.
BB: Have these five rules already been approved, or are they still being discussed by the FIS?
Kasper: They have been unanimously approved by all of the important people at the FIS.
BB: Did the athletes have any input into these new regulations?
Kasper: Of course they did. We listened to their suggestions but felt that they were being too demanding. We ended up rejecting all of their suggestions.
BB: I see. Let’s talk about these new rules. The first new rule change involves athlete safety, which I know is very important to you and everyone involved in professional ski racing. Tell our readers about this rule.
Kasper: You are correct that athlete safety is our number one priority. But our other priority is making racing exciting for the fans by challenging the athletes and making themselves push themselves to their physical limits. The fans want action and a real spectacle!
BB: Is that why the first women’s downhill race this season in Lake Louise was allowed to continue despite heavy fog? Some athletes said that they couldn’t see because of the fog. Swiss skier Lara Gut was flagged partway down the course and given a restart because of the fog. Why did you allow that race to continue when it was obviously unsafe?
Kasper: Another FIS priority is ensuring that the correct skier wins a race. Lindsey Vonn was winning that race and she is very popular in North America. If we had cancelled that race before the 30th skier came down, we would have been killed by rabid Vonn fans carrying pitchforks and torches. That race probably would have been cancelled if a different skier was leading.
BB: Yet last season a men’s race was aborted before the 30th racer when a French skier was in the lead and the weather didn’t seem as bad as it was in Lake Louise.
Kasper: Again, the correct skier was not in the lead. I can’t even remember the name of the French skier who was leading that race. Since he was obviously not very memorable, it was not a big deal to cancel that race in the name of safety.
BB: Getting back to the original topic of the new regulations, please explain the first new one.
Kasper: Our workers do their best to make race courses as safe as possible. Yet there are athletes who still complain that they are unsafe. Starting next season, any athlete who complains about the course or weather conditions will be forced to wear a mask of shame or Schandmaske in his or her next race. It doesn’t matter if the athlete complains to the media, on his or her Facebook page, or privately to a friend or family member.
BB: How will that improve safety? A mask of shame has tiny eye slits, making it very difficult to see. Wouldn’t a mask of shame be more unsafe for the athletes, especially in speed races?
Kasper: They worked very well for gossipy women back in the Middle Ages. The skiers will learn that complaining won’t do them any good. In addition to the mask of shame, athletes will be fined 10,000 euros and 100 points will be deducted from their totals for every complaint. Any racer with less than 100 points will have half of his or her points taken away.
BB: Okay, let’s move on to rule number two, which relates to athletes who get injured or tangled up in the nets during a race.
Kasper: Safety is of course very important to the FIS, but so are TV ratings. When a race is held up because an athlete gets injured, tangled in the nets, or otherwise fails to finish, it gets very boring for the viewers. There are only so many interviews the commentators can do to fill the time. Viewers end up changing the channel to something more exciting. Our researchers at the FIS noticed that every time a race is stopped for an injury, the ratings for curling competitions soar. There are a lot of skiers who are drama queens who are not injured, but they take their time getting up after a fall because they want attention. The FIS wants viewers to stay with skiing and not become curling fans.
BB: What if an athlete is truly injured and the race must be held up to get him or her safely off the piste? Injuries have unfortunately always been a part of ski racing.
Kasper: If someone is such a big sissy that he or she cannot get up and ski down the hill on a broken leg, that person does not belong in the World Cup. If we wanted to make everything 100% safe and injury proof, we would require the skiers to wear bubble wrap over their speed suits and have them ski down a beginner piste. Our fans would leave us in droves and watch other action-packed sports like curling.
BB: What is the penalty for holding up a race, and will there be exceptions for those with severe injuries?
Kasper: Any skier who holds up a race will be fined 50,000 euros and all of his points will be taken away. In his or her next race, that athlete will be the very last starter. There will be no exceptions for those with major injuries. But someone who has a true injury that causes him or her to miss the remainder of the season will get a nice “get well” card from the FIS. At the FIS, we care about our athletes.
BB: Now to the third rule, which has to do with the pre-race course inspection. Can you explain it in detail?
Kasper: Of course. Certain skiers have a tendency to be the first to show up for the course inspection and are the last to leave. They are obviously Communists who are trying to infiltrate the FIS. In addition to safety, another priority of the FIS is to stand strong against the Red Menace of Communism.
BB: I’m sorry, but I don’t get the connection between a strong work ethic and communism.
Kasper: Back in the early 1960s I made several trips to the States. I saw the classic movie “Red Nightmare.” Another movie that I saw in the States, whose name I forget, explained the various ways to figure out if someone is a Communist. One big indicator of whether someone is a Communist is if he is the first person to show up for an event and the last to leave. If we apply the principle of finding Communists from this movie, we should look no further than those who are the first to arrive at course inspection and the last to leave.
BB: Uh…right. So what will happen to those athletes who the fans thought were hard workers but are really Communist spies?
Kasper: They will lose all of their World Cup points and be sent to a gulag in Siberia.
BB: Excuse me, Mr. Kasper, but the gulag was dismantled after the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Dissenters are no longer sent to the gulag or a psychiatric hospital.
Kasper: We can then implement Plan B, which is to put them to work in an Austrian salt mine. If these athletes have such a strong work ethic, they should be happy working in the salt mines. Of course they would lose all of their World Cup points and would have to start at the back of the pack after they served their time in the salt mines. That is, if we allow them back.
BB: The fourth new rule change involves an academic requirement for the athletes. Tell our readers about it.
Kasper: Our athletes represent both their countries and the sport of Alpine skiing whenever they give an interview. In addition to safety, one of the FIS’s priorities is that the athletes are intelligent and conduct themselves well in interviews. Therefore, all World Cup skiers must be fluent in at least 4 different languages. All must speak German and English, which are the universal languages on the World Cup. In addition, every skier must speak a Latin-based language and either a Slavic or Scandinavian language.
BB: Why so many languages? Aren’t German and English enough?
Kasper: World Cup races are held all over Western and Eastern Europe. The racers are being interviewed more and more by local correspondents, who may not necessarily speak English or German. The FIS spends a lot of money on interpreters. If the skiers speak the local language of where they compete, the FIS would save a lot of money.
BB: How would you test the athletes’ language proficiency?
Kasper: All racers will be given both oral and written tests in the different languages. Those who pass may compete in World Cup races. Those who fail the tests must spend their time taking language classes instead of racing and their racing licenses will be taken away. When they finally pass their language proficiency tests and return to racing, then they will have to start at the back of the pack and work their way up. If our athletes can figure out which line to take down a race course, they can certainly master four languages. We don’t want stupid people on the World Cup. If I can speak 10 languages fluently, then the skiers should be able to speak four.
BB: Now to the fifth, and last, new FIS regulation. I know that it has something to do with sportsmanship but I don’t have the details.
Kasper: Some racers are great sports and are good about congratulating whoever is in the winner’s box. But others simply ignore the skier in the winner’s box. This is intolerable and must stop. Safety is is a big priority of the FIS, but good sportsmanship is also very important. Winners should be recognized because a World Cup win is a very big accomplishment.
BB: How exactly will the FIS promote good sportsmanship?
Kasper: It’s very simple. When a skier passes by the winner’s box on the way out, he or she must bow down to the racer in the winner’s box and say, “Hail, then that skier’s name, then, You are the greatest!” Women have the option to curtsy instead of bow. But everyone will speak into a special microphone that will be set up so that all of the spectators can hear.
BB: What happens when the leaders change, as they often do?
Kasper: I’ll give you an example based on the Super-G race in St. Anton a couple of weekends ago. Lindsey Vonn gets into the winner’s box. The skier who was there previously must say, “Hail Lindsey Vonn, you are the greatest!” The next racer down in St. Anton was Anna Fenninger, who beat Vonn. Lindsey would then have to get out of the winner’s box, bow down to Anna, and say, “Hail Anna Fenninger, you are the greatest!” Tina Maze replaced Anna in the winner’s box. Therefore Anna would have to bow down and say, “Hail Tina Maze, you are the greatest!” After the race is over, all of the skiers who finished off the podium must gather in front of the podium, bow down and say, “Hail to you! You are the best!”
BB: Isn’t a simple handshake enough of a congratulatory gesture?
Kasper: No. The skiers must also say the “Hail” sentence like they really mean it.
BB: What happens if an athlete refuses to hail the racer in the winner’s box or is not sincere in how he or she hailed?
Kasper: Any racer who fails to hail the winner or the podium, or is not sincere about it, will be placed in a special pillory that will be set up in the finish area. They will not be allowed to compete in their next scheduled race; they will stay in the pillory for the duration of the race instead. There will be a sign on the pillory in English, German, and the local language which will say, “I was a poor sport because I didn’t hail the winner.” Spectators will be allowed to throw food or anything else at the skier in the pillory.
BB: Isn’t public shaming on the pillory a bit harsh?
Kasper: No. It is another punishment that was very effective back in the Middle Ages. We really need to bring it back to teach the athletes to be good sports.
BB: I’m sure that the fans and athletes are looking forward to these new rule changes. They all incorporate the FIS values of providing excitement for the spectators, TV ratings, intelligence, sportsmanship, getting rid of Communists, and safety.
Kasper: Watch for even more excitement on the World Cup scene when these new regulations go into effect.
BB: Thank you for your time and explanation of these new rules. All of us at the Blickbild are looking forward to next season.
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