Saturday, May 6, 2017

Athlete Profile: Felix Neureuther

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Germany's Felix Neureuther is one of the most-liked ski racers in the World Cup. Nobody has a bad word to say about him, even though he has broken women's and men's hearts all over Europe. One of our intrepid reporters caught up with Felix during a break in a ski camp in Austria that he was conducting and had the chance to chat with him. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: A very belated congratulations on winning a bronze medal in St. Moritz.
Neureuther: Thank you.
BB: Also congratulations on expecting your first child. Will the baby be a boy or girl?
Neureuther: You will be the first to know. Well, the first after family, friends, and the rest of the media.
BB: Fair enough. Your son or daughter could be a third generation ski racer. It will be interesting to see him or her racing against little Maiers, Raichs, Kostelics, and all of Bode Miller's kids. But we will have to wait about 20 years for that. (short pause) Let's talk about your childhood in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as the son of famous and successful ski racers. I assume you learned to ski at an early age.
Neureuther: Yes. My parents were my first teachers. In fact, I was on skis almost as soon as I could walk. That is pretty normal growing up in a ski resort. I was skiing down the Kandahar downhill course while still in kindergarten.
BB: It is well-known that the German star footballer (soccer player to our North American readers) Bastian Schweinsteiger beat you in a ski race when you were kids. How did it feel to be beaten by a football player?
Neureuther: Bastian did both ski racing and football when he was a child. It was the only time he ever beat me. Afterward, he was more interested in playing football.
BB: Did your parents bribe young Bastian to start playing football so that he would not beat you in ski races anymore?
Neureuther: Basti and I were friends as kids and are still good friends to this day. Our friendship has nothing to do with him changing over to football after beating me in a kiddie ski race.
BB: Would you say that your parents encouraged you to be a racer, or did they force you into it?
Neureuther: My parents have always been very supportive and encouraging. They never forced me to race. I did it because I enjoyed it. Anyway, it is natural for a child to go into his parents' profession. A lot of doctors are sons of doctors, lawyers are sons of lawyers, and kids grow up being groomed to take over a family business. Even the oldest sons of witch doctors become witch doctors.
BB: Lindsey Vonn claims that her father used to beat her, shock her with a cattle prod, and send her to bed without dinner when she lost races. That is why she always wants to win. Did you parents ever punish you like that for not winning races?
Neureuther: Never. As I said before, they were very supportive. I could not ask for better parents.
BB: They even gave you milk and cookies when Bastian Schweinsteiger beat you? Even when you disgraced the family by getting beaten by a football player?
Neureuther: How many times do I need to say that Basti and I were kids at the time? He only beat me once. I evidently got over it because we are good friends now. You seem to be the one who keeps bringing it up. Didn't you ever get a higher score on a math test than the class nerd?
BB: Yes, one time.  In third grade I got a better score on a math test than Thomas Finnegan, who was the smartest kid in my class. 
Neureuther: And what did Thomas Finnegan grow up to be?
BB: A mechanical engineer. 
Neureuther: There was one time in your life that you got a higher math score than the class genius, yet he is a mechanical engineer and you are a reporter for the Blickbild. And yes, my parents gave me milk and cake even when I lost races as a child.
BB: Let's say for a moment that you did not want to become a ski racer, but an accountant or a biologist. Would your parents still have loved you as a child?
Neureuther: Of course they would have loved me! What kind of question is that?
BB: We at the Blickbild ask the questions that nobody else dares to ask. What about your child? Suppose he or she has no talent for skiing and the only Olympics that he or she will compete in is the Math Olympics. Will you still love your child?
Neureuther: I will love my baby no matter what he or she wants to do in life.
BB: Even if he or she becomes a biathlete like his or her mother instead of a ski racer like you?
Neureuther: Yes!
BB: Suppose you have two children. One child is a talented skier and outstanding junior racer. The other wants to be a nuclear physicist and has zero interest in ski racing. Would you favor the child who is a ski racer over the one interested in physics?
Neureuther: I would hope that I would love both children equally. After all, my parents did not disown my sister because she stopped racing. They still love her.
BB: It sounds like you will be a very good father even if your kid doesn't turn out to be a ski racer. Now let's talk about the famous Austrian TV incident in St. Moritz with Manuel Feller. You crashed Manuel's interview to tell him that he was lucky for winning a silver medal. Was he really lucky, or did he simply have his best race that day? (see this link, which is in German). 
Neureuther: First of all, Manuel and I are friends and he knew that I was joking around with him. We were both laughing through the interview. He had a good race and I was happy for him. He picked a good time to get his first podium place.
BB: But your bronze medal was because of your skill and speed?
Neureuther: That's right. By the way, is this your first job?
BB: What?
Neureuther: Is this Blickbild job your first job in journalism? You really got lucky working for the Blickbild!
BB: Wait a minute! I earned my job because I am very intrepid. We have the most intrepid reporters in the business!
Neureuther: I think that you had some really good luck to get your job. You Blickbild reporters seem to spend more time on holiday than you do writing stories.
BB: The editor was impressed with my writing and interviewing technique.s And of course my intrepidness. Getting this job had nothing to do with luck.
Neureuther: So you are saying that the more respectable publications would not take you, but the Blickbild did? That sounds like luck to me.
BB: Someone here recognized my talent and hired me. Just like Manuel Feller got his silver medal because of his talent.
Neureuther: What would you have done if you were not hired by the Blickbild?
BB: Hey, wait a minute! I'm supposed to be the one conducting the interview. But you seem to be good at it. Would you be interested in a job with the Blickbild? I'm sure you would be hired instantly.
Neureuther: I think I will stick to ski racing for now. But maybe after I retire...
BB: Will we see you in the Olympics next year?
Neureuther: I hope so. And yes, I hope to win a medal or two.
BB: One more thing. In a video that you posted on your Facebook page, you were doing some snazzy ski ballet moves. Are you thinking about taking up ski ballet?
Neureuther: No. I will stick with the technical events.
BB: You would have received some high marks from the judges for your one ski work.
Neureuther: Maybe so, but I still think I am better at slalom and giant slalom races.
BB: Think about the ski ballet and getting a job with us. Well, it looks like we are out of time. We at the Blickbild hope that your baby is healthy. Maybe we will see him or her on the World Cup circuit in about 20 years. We also wish you a successful 2017/18 season and hope to see you on the medal stand at the Olympics. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters are talented and not simply lucky, although they are lucky to be working for us. But of course they are the most intrepid in the business.

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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Summer Meeting Preview

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The FIS's summer meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia is coming up soon. It's a real miracle that the powers that be actually get any work done at their summer meetings. They always go to cool places like Cancun, Dubrovnik, or Portoroz. Or maybe that's how they come up with some of their crazy ideas--their brains get baked by the sun. One of our intrepid reporters went to FIS headquarters in Switzerland to try and get a sneak peek of what the FIS will come up with for next season.  We know what you are thinking. We have not put out any stories for a long time and have lost count of the number of reporters we fired because they were more interested in watching the ski races rather than reporting on them. But now we have a new batch who will hopefully do some actual work. Enough complaining about our  former reporters, who made sloths seem energetic. One of our new reporters (who is not quite as intrepid as our original reporters) had a chance to talk with Bob, our favourite contact at the FIS. Let's find out what he has to say. 

BB: We heard through the grapevine and smoke signals that the FIS has several exciting new changes for next season. 
Bob: Yes. I think that ski racing fans will be pleased. After all, TV ratings are very important to us. 
BB: Of course they are. Tell us about the first thing. 
Bob: The men will be going back to the old giant slalom skis.
BB: You mean wooden skis?
Bob: No, the previous type that was replaced by the current type, which was the previous type before being replaced. 
BB: So the previous GS ski, which is the future type of GS ski, will become the current GS ski. And the current skis will become the old, obsolete ones. Got it. What is the purpose of changing the skis so much?
Bob: We switched skis because of injuries. But it seems like the racers were injured more with the current, soon-to-be-past, GS skis than they were on the skis they used before them. But we switched anyway because we didn't realize that there would be more injuries on the new skis. 
BB: Maybe injuries happen because of course settings or making courses icier than ever before. Just a thought.
Bob: The fans want to see the racers pushing their limits. We think changing back to the previous skis should let the athletes go fast and reduce injuries. 
BB: Why not really challenge the racers and go back to wooden skis? 
Bob: I don't think any of them know how to handle wooden skis on a modern giant slalom course. Nobody would even finish a race.
BB: But everything comes back into style after a time. Maybe wooden skis will become the standard in a few years. But I guess we will have to wait and see. We heard that the next thing on the agenda is to increase the number of parallel races. 
Bob: That's right. Fans love parallel races. But we are working on a way to make them even better. 
BB: Really?
Bob: Yes. Instead of two athletes racing side-by-side, we will have eight. 
BB: In current parallel races the athletes take a turn racing from each gate. Will they do the same if eight are racing side-by-side? If a certain gate course is faster, it would keep things fair.  Would there be eight runs per heat? And how would you track all of the times?
Bob: People love watching ski cross because the athletes are racing head-to-head against each other. They don't do multiple runs because one side of the course might possibly be faster. Think of this new format as being a hybrid of  the current parallel racing format and ski cross. It should be a real winner with the fans.
BB: How will you calculate the points? And how many athletes would be allowed with this new format?
Bob: We will figure out how to calculate the race points at the summer meeting. The new format would allow more than the current 16 men and women. Half would be eliminated in each heat until only the final two are left. 
BB: I see. How will you prevent crashes? Even with the two-at-a-time format, there have been cases of racers crashing into each other. Eight athletes on a ramp would increase the chance of crashes.
Bob: The people who set up ski cross races don't worry about crashes or racers tackling each other, like Filip Zubcic did to Felix Neureuther in Schladming. It is all about seeing the racers compete directly against each other as well as the clock. Falls and tackles are part of the game.
BB: Some of the racers who have won parallel events feel like they did not win a "real" World Cup race. How will you change that perception?
Bob: We are talking about increasing the number of parallel races and giving a globe in that discipline. Then the races would seem real to the athletes. Get used to parallel races because they are the future of ski racing.
BB: Just like changing from old skis to new ones and back again.
Bob: Exactly!
BB: The FIS always talks about wanting to expand its audience. One way to get more Europeans and Americans interested in ski racing is to involve guns. Europeans love biathlon and Americans love their guns. 
Bob: I don't think we would have any ski racers left if they all carried guns.
BB: Imagine you are one of eight racers on a parallel slalom course. You not only have to ski fast down it, making all of the gates, but you need the ability to hit a moving target while avoiding being hit yourself. That would get great TV ratings!
Bob: I'm sure it would. But how would the athletes carry both their poles and a gun?
BB: By going back to basics. Young children learn to ski without poles, right?
Bob: Yes, but--
BB: Exactly! The racers will carry a gun instead of poles. 
Bob: But beginning skiers also go down the hill in a snowplow. Ski racing fans want to see the racers go fast, not in a snowplow.
BB: Winning a race by having the fastest time, whether it is head-to-head against others, or by beating the clock, is so 20th century. It is time to bring more excitement into ski racing. Thus the guns.
Bob: But they will end up all killing each other! Each race would be total carnage!
BB: The racers would not be using real bullets. They would either use paintballs or a laser tag system to record the hits and misses. Think of the excitement of watching the athletes ski down a ramp, shoot at a moving target, and dodge bullets. Bring it up at the summer meeting. I bet the others at the FIS would love this idea.
Bob: I'm not so sure, but you never know.
BB: Are there any more changes that ski racing fans can look forward to next season?
Bob: We are talking about getting rid of Super-G.
BB: Wait a minute! As of now, there are already more technical races on the calendar than speed races. How can a speed specialist possibly compete for an overall globe if approximately two-thirds of the races are technical?
Bob: He or she will have to be very consistent or not lose the technical skills. Super-G is basically a shortened downhill, or as we like to call it, Downhill Lite.
BB: I think that the fans will protest getting rid of Super-G. A lot of racing fans love it.
Bob: Super-G is the newest discipline, introduced to the World Cup in the mid-1980s. It is not one of the classical disciplines. But we at the FIS understand that a lot of fans like it. Therefore, we will replace it with something that the fans will appreciate just as much.
BB: Are you going to tell us or leave us in suspense?
Bob: You don't have the world's biggest readership, so I feel safe telling you this secret. We are going to replace Super-G with ski ballet. There will even be a globe for it! Imagine...our best ski racers can not only go fast down a race course, they can dance on their skis. (see this video)
BB: Ski ballet? Seriously? I thought it died back in the early '90s.
Bob: As you recently said, everything old becomes new again. We would modify it to make it even more exciting, like requiring the ski ballet dancers to throw their poles in the air and catch them after doing a spin or other acrobatic maneuver. There would be deductions for dropping the poles or not catching them. Think rhythmic gymnastics on skis. Imagine Mikaela Shiffrin dancing in a tutu or Aksel Lund Svindal doing ski ballet in a sequined suit.
BB: Who in their right mind would want to do this?
Bob: Anyone who wants to earn World Cup points, especially speed specialists when we get rid of Super-G.
BB: Next you're going to tell me that there will be a ski ballet globe.
Bob: Wow, you really are psychic! We will be increasing the number of small globes to six:  downhill, giant slalom, slalom, super-combined, parallel slalom, and ski ballet.
BB: One more thing. This is a bit awkward, but won't people be turned off by ski ballet because it would be perceived as
Bob: I think that ski racing fans will appreciate the athletic ability required to spin, do flips, and do artistic things with poles while on skis and the perception of it being gay won't be an issue. If macho-looking men like Dominik Paris or Aksel Lund Svindal start doing ski ballet, then that perception will go away very quickly.  Anyway, several ski racers, for example Felix Neureuther, have a large gay following. If ski ballet helps to increase the number of gay people watching ski races, then we will be happy. TV ratings are very important to us and we want as many people as possible all over the world to enjoy our wonderful sport. It doesn't matter if our fans are gay or straight.
BB: Are you gay?
Bob: No. What does it matter anyway?
BB: It doesn't. But I thought I would ask because our readers might like to know.
Bob: And now they do. Shall we move on to the next question?
BB: Okay. What about giving ski ballet a more macho image by requiring the athletes to use guns?
Bob: What is it with you and guns?
BB: We are talking about changes that will make ski racing more exciting. The most exciting movies and TV programmes always involve guns. It is time to bring them to ski racing. Imagine two athletes doing ski ballet at the same time. One does a triple spin and then aims his gun at his competitor, who tries to dodge the bullet by doing a flying camel spin on skis.  That would certainly be more exciting than watching someone in a shimmery costume simply doing spins and flips on skis. 
Bob: I don't know.
BB: Are there any other things that will be discussed in Portoroz?
Bob: No. Those are the main ones.
BB: Oh, there is one more thing. Why are the FIS summer meetings always on the coast? How much work really gets done at these so-called summer meetings?
Bob: We at the FIS work very hard to bring fans the races that they want to see. Therefore, we deserve a little holiday too. You would be amazed at the ideas that are generated after spending 8 hours lying in the sun.
BB: Judging from our interview, and past ideas like three-run slaloms and short course downhills, I can easily imagine what goes through everyone's minds at the FIS. As they say, idle minds are the devil's workshop.
Bob: The expression is, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."
BB: Same thing. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for another interesting interview. Ski racing fans are definitely looking forward to all of the changes next season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Idle minds are the Blickbild's workshop.

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, January 19, 2017

What to Do, What to Do....

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Lindsey Vonn stated in an Austrian TV interview that she would not know what to do with herself if she could not race. We at the Blickbild are not professional career counsellors, but we decided to do a good deed and help a damsel in distress. One of our intrepid reporters convened a group in a town hall style format to help Lindsey figure out her future. OK, the offer of free ice cream, chocolate, cinema tickets, and Amazon gift cards also helped us get people. Let's not forget how we got the teenage boys--we showed them a photo of Lindsey in a bikini and told them that they could see her in person. Nothing is too low for us! Lindsey appeared with her dog Lucy in this unique town hall forum. Let's find out what she has to say.

BB: Lindsey, there will eventually come a time when you will have to stop racing. Have you thought about that time and what you will do?
Vonn: I just don't know what I would do without being able to race. Ski racing is my whole life. Maybe there is a senior circuit where I could race when I am older. Or I will just stay in the World Cup until I am 80.
BB: Why not become a trainer? You would be on skis and passing on your knowledge and wisdom about racing to the next generation of ski racers. That could be very rewarding to see one of your pupils have a successful career. 
Vonn: Oh hell no! What if one of my students breaks my records? That would be devastating! My records are my legacy and nobody should ever be able to break them. 
BB: What about becoming a writer? Your first book was a success and there could be many more in your future.
Vonn: That was a lot of work to write my book. My sister Laura is still mad at me because I didn't choose her to ghost write my book.
BB: What about being a dog trainer or kennel owner? You have three dogs, so you have experience handling them.
Vonn: I don't know. That seems like hard work. I had a hard enough time training Lucy on where to pee.
BB: I may lose my reputation for intrepidness here, but I give up. It's time to ask our audience to provide suggestions. 
At this moment, Lucy starts barking furiously.
Vonn: Lucy! Stop that barking now! Bad dog!
While Lindsey is trying to stop Lucy's barking, an audience member speaks up.
Audience Member 1: I am a dog trainer and also a canine-to-English interpreter. Lucy is telling us something. Let's listen for a moment. 
Everyone is silent while Lucy barks for another minute, then stops.
BB: Okay Dr. Doolittle, tell us what Lucy just said.
AM1: This is strange...a squared plus b squared equals c squared...that is the Pythagorean Theorem.
Vonn: The what?
AM1: Now she is saying minus b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4 a c over 2a. That is the Quadratic Formula.
BB: Wow, it seems like Lucy is a very intelligent dog.
Vonn: Of course Lucy is very smart. She is my dog!
Lucy (speaking through AM1 as an interpreter): Thank you. I know that Lindsey likes to make excuses for when she does not win races, but she had a valid one last weekend in Zauchensee when she said that the snow was different between training and the actual race. It was. Because of the weather over the course of the day, the snow's coefficient of friction changed. Her service man did not take that into account when waxing her skis and that is why she did not win.
Audience Member 2: I thought it was because the snow during the race was a different shade of white than the snow in the training run.
Lucy: It sounds like someone needs to go back to school to learn some basic physics. Next question.
Audience Member 3: Lucy, I can tell that Lindsey loves you very much.
Vonn:  I really do. Lucy is the best dog ever!
Audience Member 3: Why doesn't Lindsey put you into her speed suit when she races so you can be with her all the time?
Vonn: That would not be legal and I would be disqualified.
Lucy: That is technically incorrect. There is nothing in the FIS's Big Book of Rules which specifically prohibits racers from putting animals inside their speed suits. But having me in Lindsey's racing suit would change her center of mass and affect her skiing.
BB: Come on, Lucy. Did you really read the Big Book of Rules?
Lucy: Of course I have. When Lindsey is racing, I need to do something to occupy my time. Hanging out with the service men can be rather boring. I do a lot of reading. In fact, I just finished reading War and Peace in the original Russian.
Audience Member 4: Lucy, is it true that space aliens can compete in FIS-sanctioned races?
Lucy: Again, there is nothing in the Big Book of Rules mentioning beings from other planets. So the answer would be yes.
Audience Member 5: Lucy, what is the capital of ancient Assyria?
Lucy: It would be the capital of modern-day Syria--Damascus.
Audience Member 5: What is the velocity of a laden swallow?
Lucy: An African or European swallow?
Audience Member 5: Oh I don't know. I thought they were all the same.
Lucy: You need to learn about swallows. They most certainly are not all the same. Next question.
Audience Member 6: You are a real genius about physics and FIS rules. So why did it take you so long to learn the proper places to weewee?
BB: That is a very good question. Lucy?
Lucy: I am helping Lindsey generate publicity for the sport of ski racing. Every time I pee in the wrong place, it puts Lindsey, and therefore ski racing, in the news. Lindsey thrives on being in the limelight, and I help to keep her there.
Vonn: Lucy! You just peed on me! Bad dog! Look what you did! I'll have to throw away these pants.
Lucy: You made me wear that awful sweater for one of your press conferences. I was so embarrassed to be seen by other dogs in that thing. What were you thinking? Now I have my revenge for that sweater. I hope that Leo or Bear chewed it up so I'll never have to wear it again.
Vonn: I will have to leave you home with Leo and Bear and find another dog to replace you for peeing on me.
Lucy: I'm surprised I lasted this long with you. Leo and Bear were thrown over for younger models rather quickly. I knew my time would be coming.
BB: Whoa! Let's not get into a fight here. Lindsey, I can see why you don't want to become a dog trainer. It takes a special person to be one and you are obviously not it. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Lindsey and Lucy, I want to thank you for this interview and I also want to thank the people who came to our little town hall meeting.
Vonn: Wasn't the purpose of this town hall meeting to help me figure out what to do with my life? You certainly failed because I still don't know what I would do except race some more.
BB: We did not fail because our readers got to know you and Lucy a little better. But everyone is ready to go home and so am I. We are done here. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters are smarter than dogs.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please follow us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.