How Many WC Victories Does Björgen Really Have?

How embarrassing is it for our sport that no one seems to be able to reliably count the number of World Cup victories of our best athletes?

Here’s the deal.  Marit Björgen has attracted some attention lately for the number of total WC victories to her name, which is generally thought to be at least 40, although different people will report slightly different numbers.  For example, see these Scandinavian news reports on the topic here and here.

As far as I can tell, everyone is getting the count for Björgen wrong.  This is harder to count than is seems, so I’m going to discuss this in what will probably be painful detail.

First, we need to agree on what counts as a World Cup race.  Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, how could we be confused about what is or is not a WC race?  There are two basic issues:

  • Do we count the overall results from stage race formats like the Tour de Ski, the World Cup Final or the most recent Nordic Opener in Kuusamo?  Athletes receive World Cup points for the overall standings, as well as for the results of each individual stage.  If you get WC points for it, isn’t it a WC “race”?
  • Prior to 1999, I believe, the Olympics and World Championships were counted as part of the World Cup schedule, but that is not the case anymore.  This becomes important for comparing people like Björgen to other greats like Bente Skari Martinsen or Bjorn Dählie.  Why?  Well, this is debatable, but skiers now are faced with more races to choose from in Olympic or World Championship years, whereas before those races were simply folded into the WC schedule.  So Björgen has faced more of a tradeoff than Skari or Dählie did in choosing to skip normal WC’s in order to prepare for other major events like Olympics or WSC’s.

I’m not going to argue for a “correct” answer to either of these issues, I’ll simply count victories as best as I can and include enough information for you to go whichever way you want for the final tally.  Here we go…

Starting with Dählie, my records only extend back to around 1992, so according to FIS, my database is missing his five first WC victories.  If I include those five, that yields a total of 38 wins in races that are only WCs and another 8 from races that doubled as WSC or OWG, for a total of 46.  Additionally, he had another 2 OWG wins that did not also count as WC races, which could bring his total up to 48 if you wanted.

Bente Skari Martinsen is where the trouble begins.  FIS and I agree on the “official” records, which have her winning 40 WC races, plus one more that doubled as a WSC race for a total of 41.  There are now two wrinkles.  First, there was a sprint race in January 2001 in Soldier Hollow for which only the qualification results survived.  Skari claims she won the heats (and I don’t doubt her) but FIS, having “lost” the results, seems to consider the qualification results as official.  So now we have her at either 41 or 42, depending on whether we want to count this unusual sprint.  Second, Skari also has 5 more victories in OWG/WSC races that did not also count as WCs, which would give her either 46 or 47 total.

Finally, we have Björgen.  This is the one that everyone’s been getting wrong, and it’s not their fault.  The FIS website has a few quirks in it that make it unreliable.  Basically, they aren’t very consistent in how they enter the “Discipline” field in their database, which means that when you try to pull up just World Cup victories it can miss some races.

If you simply go to the Biography section of the FIS website and pull up her WC results, sorted by performance and count them, you’ll get 41 victories (excluding the relay’s, of course).  However, there a few problems.  First, that list is missing her win in a sprint stage of the 2006-2007 Tour de Ski, which if you look at the PDF reports for that race, she pretty clearly received WC points for.  The problem is that no one entered “WC” in the right field in the database entry for that race, so it doesn’t pop up in the search.

It get’s worse.  The search results include both of her overall stage race victories (Kuusamo and the World Cup Final in Falun last season) and it’s unclear to me whether these should count.  Even so, three more results aren’t included, namely her actual individual stage wins from Kuusamo in the sprint and classic race and her pursuit victory from the Falun WC Final!

What does that leave us with?  Well, that means Björgen has (as of 12/17/2010) 43 individual WC victories, plus another two overall stage wins which netted her WC points.  Additionally, she has another 4 wins from WSC/OWG races that did not double as WC races.

Here’s a table to help you sort all this out:

World CupOWG (+WC)WSC (+WC)OWG (not WC)WSC (not WC)Overall Stage RaceTotal
Bjoergen430022249
Skari41 (42)0114047 (48)
Daehlie384420048

Personally, I don’t think it’s fair that Dählie gets credit for all those WSC/OWG wins as “World Cup” wins but that Björgen does not get the same credit for hers.  I think the decision to include the overall stage victories is more debatable, and depends upon your basic conception of what the sport should be.  Still, even by the most generous counting, Björgen has already tied Skari at 43, and barring catastrophe should easily move past both her and Dählie (46) this season.  Finally, if you give everyone credit for all their WSC/OWG wins, she’s already moved past them both, even without her overall stage race wins (my bad!)!

In any case, Marit Björgen will be racing for her forty-fourth WC victory this weekend.  Period.

Adendum: I thought it would be good to clarify a few things based on some issues raised in the comments.  I happily concede that for whatever reason, FIS seems to have decided that the “official” count of WC victories includes overall stage race results, but not the stages themselves.  My issue is that just because it’s “official”, doesn’t make it correct.  To be “official”, all that is required is for FIS to say it is so.  But as the organizing body of the sport, those decisions need to be sensible as well.

For instance:

Now, mistakes happen.  My database has errors in it, I’m certain.  So my point was simply that the way that FIS is counting WC victories seems to me to be rather obviously wrong in a way that deserved pointing out.

And yes, getting worked up over this may be a sign that I’m slightly crazy.

Related posts:

  1. Career Retrospective: Rene Sommerfeldt
  2. FIS Scheduling Follies
  3. Podium Heartbreak
  4. Marit Bjoergen’s Best Freestyle Race
  5. Davos Recap: Distance

About Joran

Comments

17 Responses to “How Many WC Victories Does Björgen Really Have?”
  1. Jorn says:

    FIS does not count single stages in Tour de Ski, World Cup Final (Falun) or Tour de Kuusamo. Even if athletes get WC-points for these stages- they do not count as WC-victories. However, overall victory TDS, WC Final og TD Kuusamo counts as 1 WC-victory.

    You can of course question the way of counting- but OFFICIALLY there is no doubt that Skari is on 42 (she won that sprint!) and Bjoergen on 41 WC- victories.

    • Joran says:

      Well, in that case it would appear that FIS has invented an entirely arbitrary and non-sensical criteria solely for the purpose of counting WC victories. What’s the point of not counting the individual stage wins in the “official” count? Why do that? The racers get WC points for those races. If they win, they are awarded 0.00 FIS points. And you can’t even argue that they shouldn’t count because they don’t get the full amount of WC points: the overall standings give skiers more WC points than a typical single race, so by that logic the TdS Overall should count for more than one WC “victory”.

      If the manner of counting victories that FIS employed were different, but defensible, I’d be fine with that. But instead it’s just crazy. So I think that the issue here is more than a difference of opinion; I think FIS is just wrong.

      • Brayt says:

        How are you and FIS counting pursuit starts in stage races? I would be willing to bet that a bunch (or at least a few) of Daehlie’s victories were the second day of 10/15km pursuits. But I have no idea if he had the fastest splits on those days, or if anyone even bothered to time the splits. As far as what “feels right”, I would say the first person across the line in a pursuit start should get credit for the victory, but I know that’s not how the FIS points work.

        Tangibly, who gets credit for the win the last day in Kuusamo – Bjorgen or Johaug? I would argue that it should be Bjorgen, as she was the first across the line, and that was the goal of the race. I guess in my ideal world I would say you give out stage victories, but if you have a pursuit start the victory goes to the first across the line, not the fastest time. In this case the winner of the last stage and the overall GC winner in a stage race would be, by definition, the same.

        • Joran says:

          Yeah, this is a good point. My main issue is consistency, and as you can see here Johaug clearly got 50 WC points for “winning” only the skating portion of that pursuit. Which is kind of crazy, you’re right, since that’s not how they’ve scored pursuits ever before. All other pursuits with a break (i.e. not in a stage race) had only the first half and the overall scored, either for FIS or WC points.

          But if FIS wants to treat each stage, including these pursuits, like every other race, than they really ought to count as “wins”. I mean imagine the following imaginary conversation after that Kuusamo pursuit:

          A: Hey, who won the WC race today?
          B: Bjoergen.
          A: Did she have the fastest time?
          B: No. Well, she had the best time over all three days, so she won the overall today, but she didn’t have the best time today.
          A: So who won today’s race?
          B: No one.
          A: No one?
          B: Nope.
          A: Was today’s segment scored for FIS points?
          B: Yes.
          A: How about WC points?
          B: Yes again!
          A: How about prize money?
          B: Of course!
          A: But no one won?
          B: Nope. FIS has decided that no one wins these races.
          A: But someone had the fastest time?
          B: Sure, and they got the most WC points, and they got 0.00 FIS points, and they won the most prize $.
          A: But they didn’t win?
          B: Nope. Doesn’t count.
          A: So it just wasn’t a WC race?
          B: I guess, but then again skiers did get WC points for it, so…
          A: So you can get WC points without doing WC races, now?
          B: I suppose.
          A: Awesome! I “officially” award myself 1 billion WC points!

    • Wilson says:

      Now I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that 43 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 49 not 51. So if you don’t count her overall stage wins she is one behind Daehlie and tied (or one behind) Skari – not that it will matter for much longer anyway!
      Either way, pretty cool stuff!

  2. Nat says:

    This is what happens to me when I assume the Dagbladet is on top of their shit…

  3. Nat says:

    Also, the fact that nobody can look up whether Skari won that race in 2001 is flat-out comical. It sucks that there is not an easy way for journalists to look that stuff up–from my perspective, if the numbers are easily available, I will use them; if there’s this much uncertainty, I will probably just stay away entirely to avoid making any mistakes.

  4. The historian in me says that there might be a straightforward way to figure out the placings of the mysterious Soldier Hollow race: go dig the results up out of the SLC newspaper(s). I tried Lexis-Nexis just now, but got only some previews of the events at Soldier Hollow in January 2001.

    On the other hand, there’s this article in Cross Country Canada (http://www.cccski.com/main.asp?cmd=doc&ID=646&lan=0) from which one can infer the women’s sprint finish: 1) Skari, 2) Manuela Henkel, 3) Beckie Scott. Kristina Smigun apparently finished fourth – last in what was apparently a four-person final.

  5. I hope Geipel did something else in 1998 in Germany, because 27th in a WC sprint ain’t much to brag about in 2050 or whatever.

  6. KJ says:

    All, Bente won the sprint in 2001. I was there and was quite surprised to see it happen as she wasn’t typically a great skate sprinter and the field was pretty solid. -KJ

  7. inki says:

    In order to count WC Victories in more “complete” way it would be better to include results of Elena VAELBE who has 45 World Cup Victories according to FIS:
    http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/613.html?type=biog&competitorid=63291&sector=CC

    Thank you for this analysis anyway!

    • Joran says:

      Indeed, Vaelbe should be included in any discussion of most overall WC wins. The only reason I didn’t mention her was because I was responding to some specific discussions comparing Bjoergen to Skari.

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