Podium Heartbreak

Watching Devon Kershaw’s (CAN) amazing race in the Olympic 50k this past season was both thrilling and a bit heartbreaking.  There’s something of a reality distortion field that takes hold when the Olympics roll around that elevate the top three positions in a cross-country race to near mythic levels.

This is at least slightly bizarre, since, really, why three?  That’s totally arbitrary.  The ancient traditions that guide our sporting world could just as easily have designated the top five as the magic number to worship.

Podium-worship has crept out of the Olympic venue and into less prestigious races over time.  And I’m not really complaining.  There’s something to be said for tradition, meaningful or not.

But it’s a bit odd that we’ve created this arbitrary cutoff, that for no reason other than that we’ve all decided it to be the case, renders a 5th place finish at the Olympics a disappointment.  Which in Kershaw’s case, it kind of was, but kind of not.

If there’s a plus side to podium worship, it’s that it gives fans of the sport something to agonize over.  And any sport worth it’s salt has shit that fans can argue and debate and agonize over.  That’s what makes being a fan so fun!

So.  No one likes just missing a podium finish, particularly in big races like the Olympics or World Championships.  Where does Kershaw’s race stack up compared to results from recent history for Olympic and World Championships? Read more

FIS Scheduling Follies

I see on FasterSkier the news that there is already some angst regarding the FIS World Cup race calendar for next season.

I have two things say on this topic that takes the form of two graphs… Read more

Victims & Nemeses: Kris Freeman

This whole victims and nemeses thing is entertaining up to a point, but the most interesting about it is that it sometimes leads me to comparisons and graphs that I wouldn’t have thought of looking at otherwise.  That’s what happened when I sat down today intending to dash off something quick about Kris Freeman’s victims and nemeses. Read more

EqPB: Test Run

Last week I ranted a bit about the inadequacies of F-factors1.  We looked at the results from interval vs. mass start races and determined that they do indeed produce different distributions of percent back’s (PB’s).  Specifically, the results of a mass start race are more likely to be bunched closely near the top, meaning the top skiers are more likely to finish closer to the winner.  This leads to many more low FIS points than you’d see in a typical interval start race.  Here’s the graph from that post summarizing these different distributions:Recall that FIS’s F-factor solution to this problem is to scale all mass start points up by a factor of 1.75, effectively expanding the blue curves above to the right.  This resulted in the following distributions:We noted that nothing really has been solved here.  There is still a huge difference in the points assigned between interval and mass start races. Read more

  1. The scaling factor FIS uses to adjust FIS points depending on whether the race was an interval or mass start.

Week In Review: June 25th

The Statistical Wife and I are getting pumped for the USA-Ghana game tomorrow.  Whatever World Cup team you’re partial to (after the USA, I confess to having a soft spot for Holland), here’s a recap of what’s been going on here at Statistical Skier this week.  A little light reading between soccer games, perhaps…

  • I explained why F-factors are such a terrible solution to the problem of FIS point discrepancies between interval and mass start races and provided a better one myself.  (Anyone from FIS reading this?)
  • The results of my reader poll came in and you chose to see how Bjoern Daehlie fared against Thomas Alsgaard, head-to-head.  If you voted for someone else, don’t worry!  This will be a regular feature…
  • After reading short report from Nat Herz at Fasterskier.com about biathlete Tim Burke’s offseason training plans, I delved into his career skiing and shooting stats a bit.
  • The skier retirement article series continued with Canadian Sara Renner.
  • Finally, upon the request of a commenter, I followed up on my doping post from last week with a quick update.

Have a great weekend!

Dopers – Update

Last week I looked at the distance race results of some skiers who had been caught using performance enhancing drugs.  A commenter wondered if I could show some data for “suspected dopers” as well.

Honestly, I was a bit reluctant to do that.  I mean, as much as I hate doping, the negative consequences of being labelled one are enough that I think we should be pretty careful about throwing accusations around, particularly in public.

In the end, though, I think we can do this responsibly by being very careful to remember that the only certain way to catch dopers is in the act (and even then it can get ambiguous).  I sort of hope that this exercise will reinforce the lesson from my last doping post that looking for evidence of funny business using graphs of race results is highly unreliable.

Read more

Career Retrospective: Sara Renner

Next up in our retiring skier series is Sara Renner.  Renner (CAN) retired this past season after competing internationally for around 16 years.  She earned a Gold Silver medal at the Turin games in the Team Sprint event with Beckie Scott, but wasn’t quite as fortunate in individual events. (Update: Sorry for the typo!)

However, along with Beckie Scott and Kikkan Randall, Renner has been among the best North American women competing on the World Cup circuit in recent history.  She’s managed 5 podium finishes, including a third place in the sprint race at World Championships in 2005.  Her best distance race probably was a 2nd place finish at the 10k classic World Cup race in Davos in 2006. Read more

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