Daehlie vs. Smirnov

Bjoern Daehlie (NOR) is generally considered one of the greatest male skiers in history (or even the greatest).  He raced during much of the 90’s until his career was cut short by a rollerskiing accident in which he injured his back.  One of his biggest competitors during this time was Vladimir Smirnov (SOV, KAZ).  Which one was really faster?

Let’s look at races where these two great skiers competed against each other directly.  I found 87 races where they both participated1.  If we look at a graph of the difference in FIS points in each race, we get the following:

The vertical scale can be a little mind bending here, since we’re looking at the difference in FIS points, and lower FIS points are better.  That means a positive value (> 0) means that Daehlie won and vice versa.

Daehlie mostly had the upper hand in 1991-1992, but Smirnov improved for the next 2-3 seasons, making the two skiers considerably more evenly matched.  Several interesting aspects to this data:

– Head to head, Daehlie seemed better at skating, while Smirnov was a stronger classic skier.

– The 1993-1994 season was the best for Smirnov, as this is the only season I see where he actually beat Daehlie more often than he lost.

– If you’ll notice, the Daehlie victories (above the line) seem slightly more spread out, vertically, than the Smirnov victories (below the line).  We might conclude that when Smirnov lost to Daehlie, we was somewhat more likely to lose by a large margin.

– One exception to this is the obvious outlier in 1995, in which Smirnov crushed Daehlie.  That was a 50k classic in Oslo in which Smirnov won (the whole race) and Daehlie was 48th, more than 10 minutes out.  I think it’s fair to say that Daehlie had a rough day on the trails that time.

–  And of course, we need to observe the general trend here: Daehlie was stronger in the early 90’s, they were reasonably evenly matched for 1-2 seasons, and then Daehlie started to pull away again.

  1. I’m sure there are some more; in particular, I’m not catching the very early end of their careers, pre-1991.

Related posts:

  1. Athlete Rankings: What’s In Your Bucket?
  2. Career Retrospective: Rene Sommerfeldt
  3. Introducing: Biathlete Rankings
  4. Skiing Performance and Age
  5. Variability In World Cup Ski Racers

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  1. […] metric to use?  The most unequivocal measure is simply their head to head results.  That’s easy enough to do if you only want to compare two skiers at a time, but what if we wanted to think […]

  2. […] week I posted a short item looking at how Bjoern Daehlie and Vladimir Smirnov fared against each other, head to head. […]

  3. […] Finally, you get to choose which pair of skiers I analyze next (see the poll on the right) as in Daehlie vs. Smirnov.  It’s a tight race so far… var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; […]

  4. […] – I tackled the timeless question: Daehlie vs. Smirnov. […]



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