Career Retrospective: Martina Beck

Biathletes retire too!  I will be the first to admit that I know a lot less about biathlon than cross country, though, so these athlete profile posts for biathletes will be as much for my benefit as yours.

Martina Beck is (was) a very fast German biathlete.  The International Biathlon Union has a nice article about her career and her decision to retire.  Rumor has it she was an excellent shot, as well.

Since I’m much less of a biathlon expert, rather than pontificate on specific race results let’s just look at some data for her career…

I’m accustomed to skiers starting out quite slow and steadily improving.  Beck appears to have been pretty uniformly fast for nearly her entire career.

Using percent back has its advantages, obviously, but we still miss some interesting stuff.  For instance, Beck’s two faster OWG races in 2006 were actually good enough for silver medals (individual and pursuit).

The 2002-2003 season stands out, at least from a data perspective.  She just wasn’t very slow that year.  Subsequently, things seemed to revert to “normal”: centered around 5% back with some much better and some quite a bit slower.

The other interesting thing to note is the tendency to have seasons with almost no results between 0% and 2.25% back or so.  I wonder if this is a result shooting performance…

In any case, Beck has seen fewer top results over the past few seasons, and her slower races appear to be getting slower.  Again, pretty typical for someone nearing the end of a career.

Since we don’t have technique differences to ponder (biathlon only employs skating) let’s look at potential differences between race format:

I’ve labelled these by race length, but biathlon race formats have been quite stable over the years.  The 7.5km is a “sprint”, which just means it’s short and they only shoot twice.  The 15km is the “individual” and is an interval start race.  The 10km is a pursuit race, usually based on the results of a previous sprint race.  And the 12.5km is a mass start race.

I’d call that a slight preference for the longer mass start and individual races, particularly at her peak.  If the rumors are true and Beck was indeed an excellent shot, this would make sense for her to be somewhat better in events that involved more shooting.

Let’s look at her shooting stats:

The solid lines are Beck and the dashed lines are an aggregate of the top ten female finishers for each season.  The rumors appear to be true.  Beck was indeed one of the better shots around.  Two seasons in particular, 2002-2003 and 2007-2008 seem better than most of the rest.  For her entire career, I have Beck shooting 90% prone, 87% standing and 88% overall.  How good is that?  Well, keep in mind that I only have data back to around 1991 or so, but here’s a table of shooting stats for women since then with at least 300 shots:

Women's career shooting stats for athletes with at least 300 shots.
NameNationProneStandingOverallNumber of Shots
ERTL BarbaraITA0.9350.9270.931520
TANANAIKO IrinaBLR0.9120.8950.9041090
JONSSON JennySWE0.9330.8730.903330
JONSSON HelenaSWE0.8950.9070.9011720
MALLAT AnnukkaFIN0.890.9120.901890
TANANAIKO IrinaUKR0.9210.8680.895380
LEVCHENKOVA NataliaMDA0.8920.8920.8921690
BECK MartinaGER0.9010.8690.8853820
BRUNET Marie LaureFRA0.8980.8680.8831000
PONZA MichelaITA0.9070.860.8833830
BAVEREL FlorenceFRA0.8980.8640.8813330
KHVOSTENKO OksanaUKR0.8920.8670.882470
HOLOPAINEN MaijaFIN0.8890.8680.879380
IOURIEVA EkaterinaRUS0.8730.880.877820
FORSBERG MagdalenaSWE0.9260.8240.8752330
AKHATOVA AlbinaRUS0.8730.8750.8742650
DORIN MarieFRA0.8870.8550.871870
SKARDINO NadezhdaBLR0.9120.8290.8711090
KETTUNEN OutiFIN0.9160.8220.8691170
PIDHRUSHNA OlenaUKR0.890.8450.868620
FALTUSOVA LenkaCZE0.8960.8360.866900
KRISTIANSEN ElinNOR0.910.8140.862420
KUDRASHOVA OlgaBLR0.8480.8750.861960
HÖGBERG ElisabethSWE0.90.8180.859560
ROGSTAD SolveigNOR0.8690.8480.859750
TERESHENKO NataliaUKR0.890.8290.859490
BEER KatjaGER0.8720.8410.8572410
KARAGIOZOVA IvaBUL0.8820.8250.8541530
ROMANOVA IanaRUS0.8680.8390.854560
SALONEN EijaFIN0.8640.8440.8541190
ANDREASSEN Gunn MargitNOR0.850.850.853360
EKLUND CatarinaSWE0.8060.8940.85320
GRUBBEN LindaNOR0.8970.8030.851910
CLAUDEL VeroniqueFRA0.8870.8120.8491040
PALKA KrystynaPOL0.8510.8480.8491660
HENKEL AndreaGER0.8730.8240.8484450
ZAITSEVA OlgaRUS0.8530.840.8472210
HOLUBCOVA KaterinaCZE0.8970.7930.8452690
PETROVA OlenaUKR0.8760.8150.8452440
ZUBRILOVA OlenaBLR0.8870.8020.8451650
NIOGRET CorinneFRA0.8320.8560.8443370
BURLET DelphyneFRA0.8310.8550.8432030
BARNES TracyUSA0.8580.8260.842690
MEDVEDTSEVA OlgaRUS0.8570.8260.8422960
MILLER SMITH JoanUSA0.8750.810.842590
ZUBRILOVA OlenaUKR0.890.7930.8421950
ALEXIEVA NadejdaBUL0.8860.7950.841440
YU ShumeiCHN0.840.8390.841490
MURINOVA AnnaSVK0.8520.8250.8392980
MAKAROVA JouliaRUS0.8590.8180.838340

There are women who’ve shot somewhat better, but they all have many, many fewer shots.

I don’t have any big conclusions here.  Like I said at the start, a lot of what I write about biathlon will be as much about me learning about the sport and it’s athletes as anything else.  But if there’s some more sophisticated number crunching that you’d like to see for biathlon, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to oblige.

Related posts:

  1. Career Retrospective: Claudia Nystad (Kuenzel)
  2. Career Retrospective: Laurence Rochat
  3. Career Retrospective: Rene Sommerfeldt
  4. Career Retrospective: Reto Burgermeister
  5. Career Retrospective: Sabina Valbusa

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