Marit Bjoergen’s Best Freestyle Race

Marit Bjørgen commented somewhere that her win at the WC opener in Gällivare, SWE was “the best skate race of her life”.  Sadly, I can’t find where I read that, otherwise I’d have a link for you.  Obviously, I found that kind of intriguing.  Let’s look at Bjørgen’s race in a bit more detail:

This is the difference in percent back between Bjørgen and the top thirty women at Gällivare in all skate races where they’ve competed against each other.  (Since there’s quite a bit of data on Bjørgen I was able to be a bit more picky and only include skiers she’s raced against at least 5 times.)  The red line indicates the median percent back difference for each season.

This isn’t a direct comparison to specific races, of course, so this doesn’t tell us directly whether this particular race (in the blue) is better than any of her past skating efforts, but it provides some useful context.  The most obvious thing to note is that the seasons with the most similar looking performances are from 2004-05 and 2005-06, where Bjørgen appears to have never lost a major freestyle race against these particular skiers (all the dots are below zero).  Additionally, the median percent back difference from Gällivare is quite a bit below the median from any other season.

A little editorial comment here.  Statisticians tend to react to extreme events differently than other people.  The typical response is to assume that this sort of thing is going to keep happening, whereas statisticians will tend to assume it was a rare event, unlikely to happen again.  In this case when Bjørgen opens the season by absolutely crushing the field, there’s a natural tendency to begin to expect Bjørgen to destroy the field like this all season long (or at least to seriously suspect this is going to happen).  My reaction was more along the lines of “There’s no way she can sustain that level of dominance for any length of time.”

Now, Bjørgen may well continue to win races, perhaps most of them.  But I doubt we’re going to see her rack up margins of victory above 2.5% on a regular basis.  Unless, of course, she does, in which case I’ll eat my words.

But how about a more direct, simple comparison?   How did that victory compare to Marit’s other WC/OWG/WSC wins?

Marit Bjoergen's Victory Margins

DateStartTechLengthSecond PlacePoints% Back
2005-12-10PursuitFC15SCOTT Beckie0.160.01
2010-03-13MassF30STEIRA Kristin Stoermer0.330.02
2004-12-11PursuitFC15SMIGUN-VAEHI Kristina0.590.04
2004-11-20IntervalC10SMIGUN-VAEHI Kristina0.520.06
2007-03-24PursuitFC15NEUMANNOVA Katerina1.440.1
2010-03-20PursuitFC10STEIRA Kristin Stoermer1.820.13
2005-02-26MassC30KUITUNEN Virpi2.380.17
2010-11-27IntervalC5KOWALCZYK Justyna2.180.27
2010-02-19PursuitFC15HAAG Anna5.20.37
2010-03-06PursuitFC15KOWALCZYK Justyna6.450.46
2005-03-19PursuitFC15NEUMANNOVA Katerina7.020.5
2007-12-02IntervalC10JACOBSEN Astrid4.20.53
2005-03-12IntervalC30NEUMANNOVA Katerina4.380.55
2005-01-08IntervalC10PEDERSEN Hilde G.5.120.64
2006-03-04MassC45PEDERSEN Hilde G.13.880.99
2007-11-24IntervalF10SKOFTERUD Vibeke W10.31.29
2005-11-19IntervalC10KUITUNEN Virpi10.671.33
2005-11-26IntervalC10KUITUNEN Virpi14.561.82
2009-11-21IntervalC10KALLA Charlotte15.962
2010-11-20IntervalF10KALLA Charlotte23.022.88
Margins of victory in Marit Bjoergen's major distance races.

So yeah, not only could you make a case that that was her best skate race, you might argue it was her best race ever, simply measuring it by margin of victory.  Notice how many of her biggest wins came in November, though?  Like, nearly all of them?  Maybe Bjørgen is just less interested in this whole “peaking” thing I keep hearing about.

This got me wondering what the biggest margin of victories were ever in WC/OWG/WSC races (or at least since 1992, where I have data):

Largest Margins of Victory

DateGenderStartTechLengthFirstSecond% BackPoints
2007-01-06WomenMassC15KUITUNEN VirpiSAARINEN Aino-Kaisa1.4720.59
2000-02-20MenMassF72MUEHLEGG JohannELOFSSON Per1.9427.17
2002-12-21WomenPursuitFC10SKARI MARTINSEN BenteBJOERGEN Marit1.9619.59
1997-01-12WomenPursuit BreakFC15BELMONDO StefaniaNEUMANNOVA Katerina2.0824.98
2010-03-21MenHandicapF15MANIFICAT MauriceVYLEGZHANIN Maxim2.2527.06
1998-03-14WomenIntervalC30LAZUTINA LarissaNAGEJKINA Swetlana2.3618.87
1993-12-11WomenIntervalC5VAELBE ElenaEGOROVA Ljubov2.419.18
2003-01-25WomenMassC10SKARI MARTINSEN BentePEDERSEN Hilde G.2.4324.34
1995-03-12WomenIntervalC5LAZUTINA LarissaGAVRILJUK Nina2.5320.27
2008-12-31WomenIntervalC9KUITUNEN VirpiSAARINEN Aino-Kaisa2.5320.25
2006-11-26WomenIntervalC10KUITUNEN VirpiBJOERGEN Marit2.6220.99
2008-01-06WomenPursuitF9SHEVCHENKO ValentinaSTEIRA Kristin Stoermer2.737.84
1995-01-29MenIntervalC15SMIRNOV VladimirISOMETSAE Jari2.7622.04
1997-03-08MenIntervalC15DAEHLIE BjoernSIVERTSEN Sture2.8522.78
1995-03-10WomenIntervalC15LAZUTINA LarissaVAELBE Elena2.8823.03
2010-11-20WomenIntervalF10BJOERGEN MaritKALLA Charlotte2.8823.02
1994-02-13WomenIntervalF15DI CENTA ManuelaEGOROVA Ljubov3.2926.34
2003-02-15WomenIntervalC5SKARI MARTINSEN BenteSCOTT Beckie3.3319.96
1999-11-27WomenIntervalC5SKARI MARTINSEN BenteMOEN Anita3.4227.38
2007-02-16WomenIntervalF10NEUMANNOVA KaterinaPHILIPPOT Karine4.536.02
Largest margins of victory since 1992.

Astute readers will realize that we can’t really count Neumannova’s win in 2007, since those China WC’s were not exactly the same as a typical WC race.  I am unsurprised to see Bente Skari Martinsen near the top of this list (and on it multiple times).  And of course, there are the odd “unusual” races, like Magnificat’s win at the WC final, where race tactics for the overall standings was probably playing a role.


Related posts:

  1. Head-to-Head: Marit vs Justyna
  2. Kuusamo WC Recap: North Americans
  3. Race Snapshots: Kuusamo 10/15km Freestyle
  4. Technique Specialization
  5. Victims & Nemeses: Marit and Justyna Edition

About Joran


2 Responses to “Marit Bjoergen’s Best Freestyle Race”
  1. Bjørgen at least said it in Norwegian in this video at VG TV,

    She probably said it somewhere else as well:)

    Interesting to see that Bjørgen’s 5 best races (in percent) were in November, though… Is she too early in shape again?

    2010-11-20 Interval F 10 KALLA Charlotte 23.02 2.88
    2009-11-21 Interval C 10 KALLA Charlotte 15.96 2
    2005-11-26 Interval C 10 KUITUNEN Virpi 14.56 1.82
    2005-11-19 Interval C 10 KUITUNEN Virpi 10.67 1.33
    2007-11-24 Interval F 10 SKOFTERUD Vibeke W 10.3 1.29


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