Canadian World Cup Splits

Last time I looked at some split timing data for Americans in World Cup races. Let’s do the same with our neighbors to the north:

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US World Cup Split Times

Visualizing split times is trickier than it seems. You have data from an array of different situations that arguably aren’t terribly comparable. We all know that mass start and pursuit races play out very differently than interval start races. It may also be difficult to compare split times from a Tour de Ski prologue to a 50k. Add to all this the fact that each race will record their splits at different points in the race, even for races of the same length, and you’ve got quite a jumble of information. (Once again, I’m using split time data kindly supplied by Jan at WorldOfXC.com.)

Still, we can do some stuff with this: Read more

Follow-Up On Kikkan Randall

As a quick follow up from my earlier post this week on Kikkan Randall’s chances of winning sprint World Cup overall title next season, a more detailed graph (click for full version):

This shows the difference in finishing place between Randall and several top sprinters when they’ve raced head-to-head in sprint races over time. Values above zero mean Randall won and vice versa. Some of the trends are particularly interesting…

Can Kikkan Randall Win The Sprint WC Title?

With the slew of high profile retirements among female sprinters this year, American skiing fans have been quick to note that the two women ahead of Randall on the overall sprint WC podium this season won’t be returning next year. Clearly, this is an opportunity, but how significant an opportunity is it?

Overall WC point titles put a lot of weight on showing up to as many races as you can and finishing on the podium when you do. (1st place gets double the WC points of 4th place.) This title rewards consistent, across the board sprinting. At the moment, Randall’s big weakness is classic sprinting. She finished 10th, 17th, 21st and 42nd in classic sprints last season. It’s going to be nearly impossible, I think, to win the WC overall without making the finals in at least a few classic sprints.

Working slightly in Randall’s favor is the fact that there are 7 freestyle and 6 classic sprints on the schedule next season, and 2 3 of the classic sprints (vs 1 freestyle sprint) fall in stage race events, which only get around half the WC points. So there are slightly more points to be had from freestyle sprints.

But that’s not much of a difference, particularly when your closest competitors in the overall are making the finals in the sprint races as well, limiting any point gaps you may open up by winning.

The other big wild card is who attends which races. It’s impossible to guess each athlete’s planned race schedule, but without any major championships next year, it’s a safe bet that all the main sprinters will be planning on attending as many races as they can. Bjørgen skipped several weekends last season to prepare for World Champs, but it’s unlikely she’ll miss so many races next year.

Let’s take a closer look at how Randall fared directly against the top female sprinters last season: Read more

Biathlon Season Recap: North American Women

I wrote this a while back, intending to pen similar posts for the men, but never got around to it, mainly because I’ve been working on other stuff (Statistical Skier related, but different…). But since I made the graphs, I thought I’d share them even if I never get around to the men’s post…

Let’s take a quick look at some graphical summaries of how the North American women fared this season on the WC scene:

Percent behind the median skier I’m sure it still kind of a weird way to think about things, particularly for biathlon which doesn’t use percent back based point systems as heavily as cross-country. All you have to know is that lower is better, and zero is roughly pegged at the level of the “median” WC level racer.

Obviously, the Canadian and US women’s biathlon teams are not powerhouses, so most of their results tend to fall behind the median skier, between 0 and 2. The Canadian women saw a burst of stronger results between 2004 and 2007, but with the exception of Zina Kocher’s 2009-2010 campaign they haven’t been able to quite sustain that. The last time the US women had as may “above average” results as they did this season was thanks to Rachel Steer’s results back in 2004-2005.

The main stories last season, I think, were the US seeing an increased number of good performances (in the 0 to -1 range) and the Canadians seeing quite a bit fewer.

On the Canadian side, this is basically the result of a single skier, Zina Kocher, having a rough year: Read more

Career Retrospective: Jens Arne Svartedal

Another accomplished specialist, Jens Arne Svartedal, is retiring as well. While no slouch in distance events, he had more success in sprinting. But his real specialty was classic skiing.

My records show 25 WC level podium finishes for him, 7 in distance events and 18 in sprints. That includes his WSC Gold medal in the 2007 classic sprint. Two of his 7 distance podiums came from Tour de Ski stages. Every single distance podium was in a classic race, and all but one of them was a 15km interval start race. Svartedal podiumed three times in freestyle sprints, but never won one (2nd, 2nd and 3rd).

Here’s a look at his distance results, emphasizing his preference for classic skiing:

As I said, Svartedal didn’t collect as much hardware in distance events, but if it was a classic race, all those results below one standard deviation below the mean reliably placed him in the top ten. And he did manage to win a WC distance race back in 2006.

Here’s a similar look at his sprinting results: Read more

Mystery Skier: Revealed

As at least one reader correctly guessed, the skier I was referring to in my previous post was Johann Mühlegg. Probably the biggest hint there was the implication that I was talking about a skier who continued racing after ~1998-1999 and reached the podium after that time. Or in his case perhaps we should say “podium”.

That little tidbit caught my eye mainly because it highlights the fact that Mühlegg wasn’t a terribly slow skier for much of the 90’s and I would guess that for much of this time he wasn’t doping. The change in his performance level was, shall we say, sudden.

Behind Mühlegg there were 7 skiers with a string of 5 seasons with at least one top ten distance result, but no podiums. They were (in no particular order) Mathias Fredriksson, Kris Freeman, Magnus Ingesson, Petra Majdic, Kristin Meurer Stemland, Valentino Shevchenko and Alois Stadlober. Quite a range of careers there. Fredricksson is an interesting contrast to Mühlegg as someone who skied for much of the 90’s and did put together some strong seasons, but his eventual improvement wasn’t nearly as sudden as Mühlegg’s.

As a follow-up, there are two skiers I’ve found with similar streaks in sprinting, having gone 6 seasons (a long time, given how long sprinting’s been around) with a top ten at least once per season but no podiums. One’s male and one is female. I’ll leave the answer in the comments by the end of the week.

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