Friday, March 28, 2014

Sweden's Secret Formula for Winning Races

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Now that the 2013/14 ski racing season has ended, the curse against Sweden has been lifted. In addition to the curse being reversed, Sweden now has a new weapon that will help them win races. Here to talk about it is a representative from the Swedish Ski Association. He did not want to be identified, so we are calling him Ulf. Let's find out what Ulf has to say.
 BB: Ulf, please tell our readers about what Sweden has developed to help its skiers win races.
Ulf: It is called Surstroemming. It is actually not something new. We have been eating it for centuries in Sweden.
BB: Is Surstroemming anything like Norway's ojlmsfjaegger?
Ulf: No. Ojlmsfjaegger are for wimps. (Note to our newer readers: Ojlmsfjaegger are cubes of pickled reindeer heart covered in a special smoked salmon and chocolate sauce that are eaten in Norway on birthdays.)
BB: Are you saying that Aksel Lund Svindal, Kjetil Jansrud, and Henrik Kristoffersen are wimps?
Ulf: They are wimps only if they never eat surstroemming. It takes a special kind of person to eat it.
BB: Please tell our readers what surstroemming is.
Ulf: Fermented herring packed in brine. We love it so much that we don't have to hide the taste with chocolate or smoked salmon sauce. We eat it on thin crisp bread with potatoes and onions.
BB: Have the ingredients been tested to ensure that they comply with FIS standards? Last year the FIS said that ojlmsfjaegger were considered a performance enhancing drug, but that decision was reversed.
Ulf: It's fish, which is full of protein. There is nothing else added to the fish or the brine that would cause effects similar to steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
BB: A lot of ski racers eat fish because it is healthy and does not cause them to gain weight. I'm sure that some of them even eat herring. What is so special about your Swedish herring?
Ulf: It is no ordinary fish. The fermentation process makes surstroemming like no other food.
BB: The Norwegians say the same thing about their beloved birthday treat.
Ulf: In Sweden you don't have to wait for a birthday to eat surstroemming. You can eat it any day of the year.
BB: What is it about herring, water, and salt that will make the Swedish skiers win all of their races next season?
Ulf: I'll show you. I just happen to have a can of surstroemming with me. (pulls out a can from his rucksack)
BB: That can is bulging at the top, bottom, and sides! Are you sure it's safe to eat?
Ulf: Of course it's safe. The fermentation process produces gases, which expand inside the can and cause it to bulge. It's no cause for alarm or food poisoning. (opens the can)
BB: Whoa! That smells like 1,000 dogs farted all at once or the inside of a portable toilet! A professional football team's locker room smells better than that stuff! It's a good thing we're conducting this interview outdoors.
Ulf: Surstroemming is only eaten outdoors because of the smell. Non-Swedes just don't appreciate the unique odor.
BB: Now I know why surstroemming will be Sweden's secret weapon next season. The other athletes will be unable to race because they will be knocked out by the smell.
Ulf: We want to win races any way we can. Swedish people are exposed to the smell of surstroemming from early infancy and are immune to it. 
BB: Is it true that when Frida Hansdotter kidnapped Germany's witch doctor last year in Schladming, she used a can of surstroemming to knock him out?
Ulf: No, that is a myth. Dr. Mabongo was so small and lightweight that he could easily be carried without using anything to knock him out. Frida just snuck up behind him with a burlap sack and picked him up.
BB: When Jessica Lindell-Vikarby and Frida won races last season, was it because they fed surstroemming to Dr. Mabongo, which caused him to temporarily lose his powers?
Ulf: That could be true.  Dr. Mabongo was evidently smitten with Frida, even though she abducted him. If she asked him to eat surstroemming, he probably would have just to please her. Speaking of eating surstroemming, would you like to try some?
BB: Gee, I'd really like to but I just ate lunch and am quite full.
Ulf: The reporter from the Telegraph ate some and survived. He is obviously more intrepid than you.
BB: Nobody is more intrepid than our reporters! We have the most intrepid reporters in the business! I'll eat some if you will.
Ulf: I thought you'd never ask. I just happen to have some bread, onions, and potatoes in my rucksack. (takes out bread, onions, and potatoes. Puts the potatoes, onions, and surstroemming  on two pieces of bread and hands one to the interviewer). I'm ready whenever you are.
BB: (whispering to self) I can do this. I am part of the most intrepid reporting team in the business. I can do this. The Blickbild has a reputation to uphold. If I don't do this I will be fired for not being intrepid...(in a normal voice) One....two...three (takes a small bite).
Ulf: Well, how do you like it?
BB: It's awful!!! I'd rather eat from a toilet! At least ojlmsfjaegger tasted good, especially the ones that Kjetil Jansrud's grandmother makes. Now I know how the Swedish ski racers will win next season. They will kill everyone with surstroemming!
Ulf: Are you going to eat the rest of that?
BB: Are you kidding? You can have it!
Ulf: I thought you'd never offer it to me. I can eat surstroemming all day. (eats both his portion and the reporter's) Now you know Sweden's plan for winning races next season. Each of our racers will bring a can of surstroemming to the start area, open it up, and leave it near the start house. The athletes can't bring it inside the start house because they would be fined by the FIS for eating an outdoor food indoors. But the smell is strong enough outdoors and some of the fumes will drift into the start house. The other racers will get sick from the fumes, leaving only the Swedish skiers. We will win every race we enter next season because we will effectively eliminate the competition!
BB: Won't the FIS get suspicious that only Swedish racers are winning races and earning World Cup points?
Ulf: I doubt it. Right now the FIS is busy preparing for its summer meeting and coming up with new rules to further confuse both the athletes and the fans. The powers that be don't have time to worry about our secret weapon.
BB:  Have you thought that the Swedish racers can win races on their own? Dr. Mabongo's curse has now been lifted.
Ulf: Of course our athletes are capable of winning races on their own. Two women even won races while being under the curse. If other teams can have witch doctors, Mafia hit men, or East German doping doctors, we can have our surstroemming.
BB: You have a valid point. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and wish Team Sweden the best of luck next season. By the way, how long does it take to get the smell out of your nose?
Ulf: At least a few hours. Sometimes up to a day or two.
BB: This was our first, and hopefully last, interview conducted in Odor-Rama. I'll never complain again when my dog breaks wind or if I interview someone whose last shower was in 1987. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We draw the line at eating surstroemming. Give us ojlmsfjaegger any day.
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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Maria Hoefl-Riesch Retires

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
German superstar Maria Hoefl-Riesch announced last Thursday that she was retiring from World Cup competition. Maria was a giant figure in ski racing, and we are not just referring to her being one of the tallest women in the World Cup. She was one of the very last true all-around ski racers who had the potential to be on the podium in every discipline. Maria's legacy is a great one. She won 4 Olympic medals (3 gold, 1 silver), 6 World Championship medals (2 gold, 4 bronze), and 9 Junior World Championship medals (5 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze). In the World Cup she had 27 wins (11th all-time), 81 podiums (7th all-time), and 175 top-10 finishes (5th all-time). Maria had one World Cup overall title plus 2 slalom globes, 1 downhill globe, 1 Super-G globe, and 1 super-combined globe. The others have already reported this story, but we have our unique perspective on Maria's retirement. Here to talk with one of our intrepid reporters is a representative from the German Ski Federation (DSV). He wanted to remain anonymous, so we will call him Hans. Let's find out what Hans has to say.

BB: Maria's decision to retire surprised a lot of ski racing fans. Were your colleagues at the DSV also surprised?
Hans: We heard rumours that this would be Maria's last season, but also heard that she may stick around for one more. So no, it was not a total surprise for us.
BB: Why did she decide to retire when she was on top?
Hans: She has her reasons and obviously knows what is best for herself and her future.
BB: Did the injuries that she incurred in the last downhill race in Lenzerheide influence her decision?
Hans: Maria is keeping quiet about her reasons, which is her right. It could be that her injury was one reason, but I believe she decided about retirement even before Lenzerheide.
BB: Is she pregnant?
Hans: No, though she has indicated before that she wants to settle down with her husband and start a family. It's hard to have a stable family life while traveling and racing.
BB: Bode Miller managed to bring his wife and baby along everywhere he went last season.
Hans: Bode is also a man. As far as I know, he is unable to get pregnant. Besides, his wife appears to do most of the child care while Bode is training and racing. She is also the one who holds the baby up for the cameras and not Bode. It just wouldn't look proper if Maria's husband held his baby for the TV cameras.
BB: That's true. The baby would actually be his and not his stepchild or a baby that was borrowed from one of the spectators. (slight pause) If Maria and her husband do have children, will they become ski racers like their mother?
Hans: You never know. They are currently living in Austria, where kids learn to ski before they learn to crawl or walk. I heard that Hermann Maier already has his twin daughters on skis.
BB: If Maria's children became ski racers, would they compete for Austria or Germany?
Hans: I would guess for Germany. Hopefully they won't be in the same situation as Fritz Dopfer with people asking if they are really German or Austrian.
BB: Now for a question that the whole ski world has been asking...Did Lindsey Vonn somehow convince Maria to retire?
Hans: Why would Lindsey have any influence over Maria? They are best friends.
BB: There are many reasons. First of all, Lindsey never fully forgave Maria for beating her by 3 points for the overall globe in 2011.
Hans: From what my colleagues and I have seen, what you say is not true. They are good friends. Anyway, Lindsey won the overall globe in 2012 and any hard feelings toward Maria disappeared.
BB: Lindsey is also coming back next season after two knee injuries and operations. Perhaps she wants Maria out of the way to help eliminate some of the competition.
Hans: If Lindsey Vonn really wants to eliminate her competition, she would need to hire a full squad of hit men to not only take out Maria, but Lara Gut, Anna Fenninger, Mikaela Shiffrin, Tina Maze, Tina Weirather, Viktoria Rebensburg, and most of the other women in the World Cup.
BB: Red Bull, which is one of Lindsey's main sponsors, has some dangerous hit men, especially Vinnie "The Shark" Razzovelli.
Hans: Don't forget, we have a witch doctor who could put a spell on any Mafia hit man who decides to get near any of our racers.
BB: Speaking of witch doctors, will Dr. Mabongo stay with the DSV? He was hired specifically to work with Maria and he did a great job. (see this story)
Hans: Dr. Mabongo will stay with the DSV, though we are not sure if he will stay and work with the women's team or transfer to the men's team. But we are not sending him back to the Congo or trading him to another team.
BB: That is good to hear.
Hans: Germany was the first ski team to get a witch doctor and it would not look very good if we sent him back. It would send a message to the other teams that witch doctors are not really necessary.
BB: We wouldn't want that. Anyway, I don't think that the Congo could handle a bunch of unemployed witch doctors returning there. (slight pause)  Maria's retirement marks the end of an era in ski racing. Last season she was one of only two true all-around racers in the World Cup who had the ability to get on the podium in every discipline. With her retirement the age of real all-around racers is coming to a close.
Hans: Ski racing has become more specialized. Athletes are either speed or technical specialists. Maria was rare because she excelled at everything. Giant slalom was her weak event, but most of the other women in the World Cup wished that they were as "weak" in GS as Maria was
BB: Maria's retirement also marks the end of an era for something else. Maria was one of the last racers to get married and have a double-barreled name. She was Maria Hoefl-Riesch and not simply Maria Hoefl.
Hans: Wait a minute! Other female racers have gotten married after Maria did.
BB: They did. But Regina Mader caused mass confusion when she changed her name to Regina Sterz after she got married. Fellow Milka Girl Sarka Strachova announced her marriage in advance to avoid the confusion that Regina caused. (see this story and also this one)
Hans: Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden has a double-barreled name.
BB: She is also divorced. Maria is one of the last racers with a double-barreled name who is still happily married. Now that Maria has retired, only Nadja Jnglin-Kamer is left.
Hans: I never realized it.
BB: That's because the Blickbild has the most intrepid research team in the business. It is our job to know these things. So what are Maria's future plans?
Hans: I would imagine for now that she wants to rest and recover from her injuries. We will find out anything more if she decides to announce it.
BB: That sounds fair. I'm sure that whatever Maria does in the future, she will be just as successful at it as she was at ski racing. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview. On behalf of the Boston Blickbild, I want to wish Maria all the best in her post-retirement life. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: There is only one word that we have for Maria Hoefl-Riesch---Respect!

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, March 19, 2014

Tie Breakers

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Last Saturday US star, and giant slalom ace, Ted Ligety won his 5th giant slalom Crystal Globe. He and Austrian racer Marcel Hirscher actually had a tie because they earned the same amount of points. But Ted won the tie breaker because he had more wins. But what if Ted and Marcel each had the same number of points and wins? What would be the tie breaker then? Our intrepid research team obtained a copy of the International Ski Federation's (FIS) Big Book of Rules to give our readers the answers they deserve. Here to talk with one of our intrepid reporters is one of our intrepid researchers, who is also our Answer Man when people send in questions. Let's find out what the Answer Man has to say.
BB: Ted Ligety won the GS globe because he had more wins than Marcel Hirscher, even though they finished with the same number of points. Why couldn't they each have a globe?
Answer Man: The FIS only makes 8 small globes, one for each of the four disciplines for both men and women. We don't have the money to have an extra globe made. Like everyone else, we are doing our best to economize.
BB: Why not give racers who have a points tie half a globe each?
Answer Man: First of all, that would not look good in the photos to see a racer holding half a globe. Having a tie breaker also avoids arguments over who got the bigger half. The FIS has the stealth technology to determine if a ski racer is wearing her arm protectors over her speed suit instead of underneath it. The FIS also has super measuring instruments that can tell if a skier's boots are 0.0000001 mm to high or if his skis are 0.000000001 mm too wide or long. If two racers each got half of a globe, the first thing they would do is have it measured to see whose half was actually bigger. The FIS tie breaking system avoids that issue.
BB: Fair enough. Suppose that Ted and Marcel both had the same number of wins. What would be the next tie breaker?
Answer Man: According to The Big Book of Rules, the next tie breaker is the number of podium finishes. Whoever had more podium finishes would get the globe.
BB: That sounds good. But in the interest of expanding our knowledge, we are going to carry on and find out what the tie breaker would be if Ted and Marcel had the same number of points, wins, and podium finishes.
Answer Man: The racer who received the higher mark for artistic impression for a fall or mistake would get the globe. This is why it is very important for racers to look good, and even come up with original moves, when they fall or make an error. Artistry scores may seem like a big joke to the athletes, but they could turn out to be the difference between winning a globe and getting second place.
BB: If two racers end up with the same artistic impression score, does the FIS look at the marks from the individual judges?
Answer Man: That's right. The FIS looks at both the highest counting scores and the high scores that were thrown out. If two racers had the same individual high score that counted toward their average, then the FIS looks at the high scores that were thrown out. The athlete with the higher individual score wins. For example, if Ted's highest counting score was 8.7 and he had a 9.2 thrown out, and Marcel had an 8.7 that counted and a 9.1 that was thrown out, Ted would win the tiebreaker.
BB: I see. But what if both Ted and Marcel were perfectly even across the board with their artistic impression and scores from the individual judges? What is the next tie breaker?
Answer Man: Racers would then be given a special math test. It would start off easy, then get progressively more difficult. The racer with the higest score on the math test would get the globe.
BB: Wait a minute! These athletes are supposed to be geniuses at skiing, not math. If they were super skilled in mathematics, they would have become mathematicians and not ski racers.
Answer Man: The FIS had to find a good tie breaker if two athletes tied for points, wins, podium finishes, and artistic impression scores. Mathematics is a universal language that everyone understands. Therefore, a math test is a fair tie breaker.
BB: When is this math test given? Ted knew that he won the GS globe immediately after the race. If he and Marcel had tied for everything else, when would there be time for a math test between the end of the race and the award ceremony?
Answer Man: The math test is given during the season to anyone who has even the slightest chance of winning a crystal globe. The results are put into a sealed envelope, which is only opened if needed. If there are no ties, then the contents of the envelope are shredded and recycled. The next season, if necessary, the racers will take a new test.
BB: I'm sure you know the next question. Is there another tie breaker if both have the same score on the math test?
Answer Man: There is. The penultimate tie breaker is a spelling test.
BB: A spelling test? In which language would it be? If Ted and Marcel tied for points, wins, podium finishes, artistic scores, and mathematical ability, would the test be in German or English?
Answer Man: This season the test was in Swahili.
BB: Swahili?
Answer Man: Yes, that is correct. Every season a different language is selected through a random draw. The FIS finds a native speaker of that language, in this case Swahili, who gives each racer a dictation test. The racer who makes the fewest spelling errors gets the crystal globe.
BB: Is this test also given during the season?
Answer Man: Yes, but at a different time than the math test. It is also given to any athlete who has even a small chance of winning a crystal globe. The FIS evidently can't be too careful. Like the math test, the spelling test results are put into a sealed envelope and only opened when necessary. They are also destroyed after all of the globes have been given out.
BB: But why Swahili?
Answer Man: The FIS has eight different languages that it uses for the test: Swahili, Gujarati, Dari, Uyghur, Hmong, Quechua, Navajo, and Klingon. They wanted to use languages that are unknown to most of the ski racers. Therefore, it would be a neutral and fair test. If they used more common languages, like French, English, Italian, or German, then many of the racers would have an unfair advantage.
BB: You said Klingon was one of the languages used.
Answer Man: That's right.
BB: Klingon is not a real language.
Answer Man: You obviously don't spend much time at Star Trek conventions.
BB: I don't. Anyway, you said that the dictation and spelling test was the second-to-last tie breaker. What is the ultimate tie breaker for a crystal globe?
Answer Man: A coin flip.
BB: Did you just say that a crystal globe could all come down to the flip of a coin?
Answer Man: Yes. Let's say that Ted and Marcel are still tied after all of the tests. A representative from the US team and one from the Austrian team would watch as a coin is flipped by an FIS official. One team would be heads and the other tails. There will be up to 5 coin flips. The first team representative to get to 3 correct guesses wins and his racer gets the crystal globe.
BB: When would this coin flip take place?
Answer Man: After the last race in that discipline in the finals. The envelopes with the results of the math and spelling tests would be opened. If the racers in question have equal scores on both, then the team officials would gather for the coin flip. After the coin flip, the winner gets his or her globe and the award ceremony can proceed.
BB: Does someone test that the coin is fair?
Answer Man: It is tested by FIS scientists. Need I say more?
BB: Let's hope that a crystal globe never has to come down to a coin flip. Well, it looks like we have run out of time. I want to thank you for all of the information on tie breakers for crystal globes. I'm sure our readers learned something. On behalf of the Boston Blickbild, I also want to congratulate Ted Ligety on his 5th GS crystal globe. It is an incredible achievement. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Nobody is in a tie with our reporters for being intrepid.
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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Olympic Judging Scandal Uncovered

A Boston Blickbild Excluive

There is trouble brewing over Max Franz's gold medal in Sochi for best artistry (see this story). 
Germany and Switzerland have made a formal protest to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over Stefan Luitz's bronze medal and Didier Defago's 4th place finish. Evidently Germany felt that Stefan deserved the gold for best artistry, while the Swiss believed that Didier deserved a medal. Our intrepid research team has uncovered corruption among the International Ski Federation's (FIS) artistry judges in Sochi. We wanted to talk with Bob, our favorite contact at the FIS, but his bosses were beginning to wonder why he spends his time talking to us and not doing any real work. But one of our intrepid reporters scored a journalistic coup and was able to talk with the FIS men's technical director Guenter Hujara about the judging in Sochi and the German/Swiss protest. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Before we talk about the situation with Germany and Switzerland, can you please explain to our readers about the artistry judges. First of all, how many artistry judges are there?
Hujara: There are six judges who score the racers on their artistry. There is a seventh judge, the head judge, who decides if a racer's moves should earn a bonus for artistic impression, difficulty, or originality. In addition to skiing fast, artistry is a very important part of ski racing (see this story).
BB: Where do the judges come from and what are their qualifications?
Hujara: Most of our judges are figure skating or gymnastics judges, but we also have some who are specifically trained in ski racing artistry. They come from all of the FIS member countries.  However, three of the judges on the artistry panel must come from: Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, or the USA. The other three are from the other member nations. The head judge on each panel cannot be from the same country as any of the other six.
BB: How are the judges selected?
Hujara: There is a random draw at the beginning of the season for every competition, including the Olympics and World Championships.
BB: Please explain the scoring system.
Hujara: A ski racer can earn up to 10 points for artistry. However, they can earn bonus points for originality and difficulty, which can give them a score higher than 10. The six judges give the racer a score. The high and low scores are thrown out and the middle four scores are averaged. Then the head judge's bonus for artistic impression, difficulty and originality are added to that average to get the total score.
BB: Now let's talk about the protests by Germany and Switzerland. Both of those countries felt that their racers were underscored, while Austrian gold medalist Max Franz was overscored. Max got 12.60 points, Alexander Aamodt Kilde of Norway had 9.20, Stefan Luitz had 8.75, and Defago 8.60.
Hujara: That is correct. Artistry is subjective and can't be measured by a clock. It is up to the judges to decide which moves are truly artistic and original and how well they are executed.
BB: Our intrepid research team found out that the head judge in the men's super-combined race was a figure skating judge from Austria. Max Franz specializes in figure skating moves.
Hujara: The six judges in the super-combined race were from France, Italy, the USA, Poland, Japan, and Uruguay. The French judge gave Max a score of 9.7, which was thrown out, as was the Polish judge's score of 9.3. The others gave him a 9.5, two 9.6s and a 9.7. The head judge gave Max three points in artistry and execution bonus because he prefers classical technique, which Max used.
BB: Our intrepid researchers also noticed that the giant slalom race, where Luitz and Defago got their scores, also had an Austrian head judge.
Hujara: The head judges are chosen by a random draw. It was strictly a coincidence that there was an Austrian head judge for two races.
BB: What were Defago's deductions? The Swiss say that his spin move was equally as impressive as Max Franz's, yet he got a much lower score and no bonus points. 
Hujara: A special FIS committee looked at the scores and found that the giant slalom judges were very strict. They gave the lowest average scores in the five disciplines, but they were consistent for each racer. Perhaps they felt that Didier was copying Max's move. Didier's spin was not as cleanly executed as Max's.
BB: Max had the advantage from figure skating training, so that should have been taken into consideration. What were Stefan Luitz's deductions? One would think that a limbo move to straddle to finish on one leg would get a huge bonus from the judges. We saw a poll of the spectators, which said that Luitz should have won gold.
Hujara:  The spectators are not judges and don't understand about what things get a bonus or a deduction. Stefan made a classic beginner's mistake by straddling the last gate before the finish line. He was also deducted by changing his limbo move at the last moment, which resulted in the straddle, and for finishing off balance.
BB: Or maybe both Stefan and Didier got a lot of deductions and zero bonus points because the Austrian head judge wanted to ensure that a fellow countryman won the gold medal. 
Hujara: That's an unfair accusation and something for the CAS to decide.
BB: You said that the artistry and head judges are chosen by a random draw. Was it really  random having an Austrian head judge for two races? The odds are 1 in 10,816 that an Austrian would be the head judge if the draw was truly random. 
Hujara: We stand by our random draw for the judges. Austria just got lucky with the draw for both races. Croatia was selected to set courses for two men's races in Sochi and that draw was also fair.
BB: In slalom races the FIS has a panel of experts who watch videos of the race to catch skiers who unknowingly straddle a gate. Do you have anyone who watches videos to make sure there is no judging bias?
Hujara: That is not necessary. Our judges are highly competent and are always right, even when they are wrong. 
BB: You left out one thing about the head judge. He also has the power to tell the other judges to raise or lower their scores. 
Hujara: The FIS found no evidence that the Austrian head judge told the others to raise or lower their scores. We interviewed the judges in the super-combined and GS races and they all denied that the Austrian head judge told them to raise or lower their scores.
BB: Lance Armstrong also denied that he was doping, yet the truth came out later and look what happened. (short pause) One of our intrepid researchers talked to some of the judges. One of them said that the Austrian judge threatened to find a witch doctor to make voodoo dolls of them and stick lots of pins in them if they didn't raise their scores for Max Franz. The original scores for Max were lower, but they were told to raise them.
Hujara: That can't be! Our judges are honest and would report any threats or wrongdoing.
BB: Another judge said that the Austrian head judge at the GS race made the artistry judges lower their scores by almost a point. If they didn't, the Austrians would send a Mafia hit man to their houses. That is why the GS scores were low compared to the others.
Hujara: That is nonsense! The CAS will have the final word on whether the medal standings are correct or not. For now they are official and will stand.
BB: The Blickbild did its own investigation. We hired independent panels of figure skating and gymnastics judges, who analyzed the videos from the Olympics and came up with a different result. Our judges had Luitz in first place with a score of 11.3, which includes a two point originality and difficulty bonus. Kilde was still in second place but his score was 9.7, which includes a one point bonus for originality. Franz was 3rd with 9.4. He got a one point bonus for artistic impression. Defago was still fourth place, but his score was 9.0. 
Hujara: The FIS could use its own judges and come up with a different result. Remember, the FIS is always right, even when we are wrong.
BB: We showed our video to three different judging panels and the scores I mentioned were the averages from the three panels. 
Hujara: Any stories of the Austrian head judge trying to influence the others sounds like jealousy. The other countries are simply jealous that Austria is back at the top of the medal table, where it should be, after being beaten by the USA in 2010.
BB: Are you confessing that the Austrian judge used his influence to hand Max Franz a gold medal to ensure Austria's place at the top of the standings?
Hujara: No, of course not, because there was no wrongdoing. We will leave it to the CAS to decide if our judges are corrupt or not. If any of our judges did anything wrong, they will be suspended.
BB: I think it  may be time to start training a new group of judges. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and your insight into the artistry judging in Sochi. The Blickbild will be in Switzerland to cover the hearing at the CAS. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.
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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Should Ante Kostelic Be Banned From Course Setting?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Ante Kostelic has come under fire for his difficult course settings in Sochi. He set the slalom course in the men's super-combined race and also the second run of the men's slalom. Almost 40% of the men in the second run of the slalom ended up not being able to finish. Is Ante Kostelic a genius in setting courses that require racers to use their brains along with their technical skills, or is he an evil sadist who enjoys watching people fail? One of our intrepid reporters had the opportunity to moderate a debate about Ante Kostelic's course settings. The two people debating the issue are Bob, our favorite contact at the International Ski Federation (FIS), and Jane Hoffman, who trains young skiers in California. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: What was your opinion of Ante Kostelic's course in the second run of the Olympic slalom? Bob, I'll start with you.
Bob: It was very different and more complex than a standard slalom course. But Ante's courses are like that. The FIS had no problems with the course because it followed our rules and the FIS is always right, even when we're wrong. Nobody seemed to have a problem with it during the course inspection. I personally felt that it really tested a racer's tactical ability as well as technical prowess. In other words, it was a masterpiece.
BB: Jane, what did you think?
Jane: It was a disaster! Forty percent of the starters in the second run failed to finish. Ante Kostelic obviously does not care about the racers' self-esteem. If he did, he would have set an easier course.
Bob: Jane, you come from a country where they play baseball, a sport where a 70 percent failure rate in hitting the ball is considered great. If ski racing were baseball, the 40% DNF rate in Sochi would be considered fantastic.
Jane: Ski racing is very different from baseball. First of all, baseball games are played every year, not just every four years at the Olympics.
Bob: Jane, you ignorant slut! You obviously know nothing about ski racing, yet you say that you train young skiers. What are you teaching them?
BB: Time out! There will be no name calling. This is supposed to be a civilized discussion. (slight pause) Jane, what is your experience training young skiers?
Jane: I am a ski instructor who teaches beginners, mainly young children. But my class has a race at the end of the ski course and I give the kids advice on racing strategy. All of the kids in my class get a medal at the award ceremony after the race. It's important for them to feel good about themselves for finishing the race.
BB: I see. Let's get back to Ante Kostelic and his course setting at the Olympics.
Jane: Good idea. How come a father got to set a course for his son? I don't let the parents of my students set the race courses. The ski school where I work has professional course setters.
Bob: Jane, you.................first of all, Ante Kostelic is the Croatian team trainer. Secondly, if he set the course specifically for his son, then Ivica Kostelic would have won the gold medal in Sochi instead of Mario Matt. Ivica also would have had the fastest time on the course, but he didn't. Adam Zampa from Slovakia was the fastest on Ante's course.
BB: For our readers' information, Adam Zampa does slalom training with the Kostelics.
Jane: That sure sounds like Mr. Zampa had an unfair advantage. He got to train on courses set by Ante Kostelic.
Bob:  Adam still had to perform on race day, which he did. But if he really had an unfair advantage, he would have won the gold medal. Anyway, the men in the slalom race had advance notice about who was setting the courses for the first and second runs. It's not like they found out on race day that Ante was going to be the course setter. They had time to prepare both mentally and physically for it. They also had time to view it during the course inspection.
Jane: I think that the course should have been easier to allow everyone to be able to finish it. Everyone who finished that course should have won a gold medal.
Bob: This is the Olympics and not a beginners' class race. The racers are the best in the world and should compete on a difficult course. There is also a reason why Olympic medals are so valuable. Only the top three can earn one. If everyone got a gold medal, then the medals would be worthless.
Jane: Ante Kostelic is a big bully who obviously needs to take anger management classes. He is obviously acting out repressed anger and hatred through his course settings.
BB: Whoa, that's a bit harsh. Let's stop the name calling and discuss Ante Kostelic's course setting like mature adults. (slight pause) What do you two think of Ted Ligety's comment that the course was borderline unsportsmanlike?
Jane: I agree with Ted. He should know because he just won a slalom gold medal in Sochi.
Bob: Jane, you're an.............I disagree. First of all, Ted won gold in giant slalom, which is different from slalom. He was 6th in the slalom race after the first run, which was set by the German trainer. I think his comments were from frustration at not finishing. Ted is very inconsistent in slalom and tried to ski down like a bull in a china shop when an Ante Kostelic course requires finesse. Silver medalist Marcel Hirscher and bronze medalist Henrik Kristoffersen actually liked the course and excelled on it.
Jane: I would never set a course for my students that only allowed 60 percent of them to finish. It would traumatize them for life and they would never want to ski again.
Bob: This is the Olympics, not a ski school race for 7-year-olds! Every racer at the Olympics has failed to finish a race at least once in his life. A DNF is part of racing and I don't believe that professional racers suffer lifelong mental trauma because they had one.
Jane: And how would you know how those poor racers feel? They failed to finish the course in front of a worldwide audience. That has to scar them for life.
Bob: My goodness, of course they are not scarred for life. If a DNF was so traumatic, there would be no racers left because every professional racer has had one at least once in his career. I know this because I work for the FIS and we are always right.
BB: What is your opinion about Andre Myhrer calling Ante Kostelic an idiot?
Jane: He is right. Ante Kostelic is an idiot for making those poor racers look bad in front of the whole world.
Bob: If you look back to the Schladming world championships last year, one could say that Andre was being an idiot for not returning Germany's witch doctor, who was kidnapped by one of his teammates. He could have stepped up and done the right thing by returning Dr. Mabongo. But instead, he let his teammates keep the witch doctor.
Jane: What do witch doctors have to do with Ante Kostelic and his horrible course setting?
Bob: You obviously don't keep up with skiing news. Everyone knows that Sweden is under a curse for kidnapping the witch doctor in Schladming. Andre really had no right to be upset in Sochi because he knew that a gold medal was impossible due to the curse.
Jane:  Wow, that punishment seems awfully extreme! That is tantamount to psychological torture.
Bob: Kidnapping another team's witch doctor is a serious offense. While athlete safety and always being right are priorities at the FIS, one of our other priorities is ensuring that witch doctors are not abducted by opposing teams.
Jane: Wait a minute! Witch doctors aren't real. The idea of a ski team having a witch doctor is too weird to believe.
Bob: It's not any weirder than every finisher at the Olympics earning a gold medal.
BB: It looks like we have drifted far away from our original discussion and we are now out of time.  I want to thank both of you for your time and for presenting your interesting opinions. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive debate.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our intrepid reporters are not idiots or unsportsmanlike. They always produce masterpieces.

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.