SWISS MEN’S SPEED TEAM TO RACE WITH WOMEN IN 2013/14
A Boston Blickbild exclusive interview
The Swiss men’s speed team has had a very disappointing season. The season started on a low note when 2012 overall runner-up Beat Feuz announced that he was taking the season off to let a knee injury and infection heal. The team’s veterans, Carlo Janka, Silvan Zurbriggen, and Didier Defago, often finished out of the points in their races. Younger team members Sandro Viletta and Marc Gisin also performed poorly. The crisis affecting the Swiss team was all over the press. Every Swiss and international news bureau covered the story. Because of the poor performances of the Swiss men, they were given special permission by the International Ski Federation (FIS) to compete in women’s races starting next season. The Blickbild was granted an exclusive interview with Janka, Zurbriggen, Defago, and Gisin. Viletta was unfortunately unavailable. This interview was conducted before Carlo Janka’s 3rd place finish in today’s Wengen super-combined race.
BB: Tell us why you think your performances have been unusually poor this season.
Janka: I had a mystery virus, a heart procedure, and back problems. Then I lost my mojo.
Zurbriggen: For me it is age. I am way past my prime and should have retired three years ago to work in a chocolate factory.
Defago: Everyone goes through up and down periods. Unfortunately the whole team seems to be on a big down cycle. It’s contagious. One guy has a bad run and then the others copy him.
Gisin: I had an unhappy childhood because Mum always liked Dominique better than me.
BB: What have you been doing to try and improve your mental state and performances on the race course?
Zurbriggen: I am trying to channel (retired teammate) Didier Cuche and have even learned how to do his post-run ski flip. Didier was a late bloomer and maybe I am one too.
Defago: I am also channeling the other Didier by shaving my head. If I can look like the other Didier, I should also be able to ski like him.
Janka: Aksel Lund Svindal and I are about the same size. I planned to go into his hotel room, steal his speed suit, and replace it with mine. I would ski as Aksel and he as me. That way someone in a Swiss speed suit would do well in a race and the press would stop writing negative articles about us. But my plan was foiled because as soon as I broke into his hotel room, his two attack-trained reindeer, Olaf and Thor, gored me in the belly with their antlers. I was lucky to escape with my life!
Gisin: Here’s an example of how Mum liked Dominique better than me. Both of us tore our ACLs last season. Dominique was sent to the finest orthopedic clinic in Zurich to have her knee repaired. The best surgeons in Switzerland operated on her. Where did Mum send me? To the medical school in Geneva! Medical students operated on my knee! No wonder she is having better results than me this season!
BB: How do you view your chances for winning a medal at the world championships in Schladming in a few weeks?
Zurbriggen: I would love a medal, but the chances of me winning one are slim to none.
Janka: If I can find my mojo before Schladming, I have a good chance of winning a medal.
Defago: Anything is possible. Nobody expected me to win an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver and I did.
Gisin: Here’s more proof about how Mum loved Dominique more than me. All of Dominique’s medals and trophies are on display at my parents’ house. Mum told me that there is no room to display mine and I had to put them in the cellar.
BB: How did you decide that racing against women would solve the crisis with the speed team?
Defago: When I finished the downhill in Lake Louise last November in 57th place, someone shouted at me, “You ski like a girl!” when I was in the finish area. That really stung. If I was going to ski like a girl, I might as well race with them.
Janka: I was 47th in Val Gardena this year. Christian Simari-Birkner, the perennial last place finisher, actually did better than me in that race. He even tweeted, “Wasn’t dead last today! Beat the pants off of Carlo Janka!” When I read that, I thought that if I skied with the women he would go back to being last place again. If the women started beating me, I could steal one of Lindsey Vonn’s speed suits. We’re both about the same size. Imagine the fun it would be skiing as her and she as me.
Zurbriggen: As I said before, I was working on doing the Didier Cuche ski flip. When I finished my run in Beaver Creek, which was only good enough for 45th place, I loosened up my binding and flipped my ski. Unfortunately, the ski went too far. The next skier down after me, who was from the Central African Republic, happened to finish about 5 seconds after I did. And he was in a snowplow! Anyway, my ski sailed over my shoulder and hit the African skier in the head. The last I heard, he is still in a coma on life support. But that got me thinking. Coming in just ahead of an African snowplower made me realize that I’m not good enough to compete with the men anymore and that I should race against the ladies.
Gisin: If I raced against women, and beat Dominique, then Mum would have to love me as much as she loves Dominique. I would show Mum who the best skier in the family really is! She would finally be proud of me.
BB: When Lindsey Vonn tried to race against men, the FIS turned her down. The FIS told her that men and women should have their separate races, though women can be forerunners in men’s races. How did you get the FIS to let you race against women?
Defago: Let’s just say that our performances this season speak for themselves.
Zurbriggen: Yeah, we stink!
Janka: We were so bad that Gunther Hujara set up a special meeting of the FIS board to grant us an exemption to the normal rules of competition.
Gisin: Here’s what really sealed the deal with the FIS. Dominique has her pilot’s license. I wanted to get my pilot’s license too, but Mum said that one pilot in the family is enough. I wish that Mum didn’t love Dominique more. She even loves my younger sister Michelle more than me.
Janka: Marc, we’re all sick and tired of you going on about how your mother doesn’t love you. Grow up and get over it already! I took a break during this season to find my mojo and nobody wrote about my comeback. Every newspaper, magazine, and TV channel had stories about Lindsey Vonn’s big comeback. I had about the same amount of time off and nobody mentioned anything about my big comeback in Adelboden. It was like I didn’t exist anymore despite being a world, Olympic, and World Cup overall champion. There were no parades or even trumpets playing a special fanfare at the races. But do you hear me whining about being neglected by the press? No! I sucked it up and moved on with my life. You need to do the same.
BB: How do you think you will do against the women next season?
Janka: I could become the first skier in World Cup history to win both a men’s and women’s overall Globe. How cool is that!
Defago: We’ll restore glory to the Swiss men’s team by taking all of the podium spots in the women’s races.
Zurbriggen: I can put off retirement even longer.
Gisin: Mum will finally be proud of me, unless she decides to hate me even more for beating Dominique in races.
BB: Thank you for your time and insights into the world of professional ski racing. Good luck competing against the women next season.
Zurbriggen: It was a pleasure, as always, talking with the Blickbild.
Janka: It is always interesting to talk with the Blickbild.
Defago: I enjoyed this interview very much.
Gisin: Wait until I tell Mum that I was interviewed by the Blickbild and Dominique wasn’t. That’s one point for me, a big fat zero for Dominique. Bwahahahahaha!
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