In The Mid-90s, Second Place Was Different

Sometimes you have some data and a specific question.  Other times, you have some data, and you just sort of noodle around with it aimlessly.  Sadly, I’ve been known to do that just for fun.  I know, I’m a nerd.

So I was looking at the gaps between 1st and 2nd place finishers in World Cup, Olympic and World Championship races (measured in percent back) in my free time.  You know, that’s just the sort of thing I do when I’m bored.

And here’s the plot:

One could easily just glance at this, say “Meh” and move on.  Ah, but what if I plot is on a log scale?

Can you see it now?  Weird, huh?1  Just to spell this out, for some reason, prior to the 1998-1999 season the gap between first and second for the men was quite consistent.  And then suddenly in 1997-1998 we started seeing a steady supply of much closer races.

The introduction of mass start races ought to explain this, as far as I can tell, since the dates are pretty close to matching up with the introduction of more mass start races.  But the women seem unaffected, which wouldn’t necessarily fit with the mass start explanation.

Thoughts? I’m open to suggestions…


  1. The dots cutoff at the very bottom are actually some rare ties, which I had to inflate slightly when taking the log.

Related posts:

  1. An Overview Of WC Split Times
  2. Canadian World Cup Splits
  3. Mid-Season Review: North American Sprint
  4. Mid-Season Review: USA Biathlon
  5. The Difference Between Mass Start And Interval Start Races In One Graph

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4 Responses to “In The Mid-90s, Second Place Was Different”
  1. Aldo says:

    I think the explanation for women not having closer races in Mass Start is the fact that women races have less depth in the field of candidates to win. Usually all MS male races end in a sprint, while MS female races usually have only one single women arriving first (like Johaug in Oslo’11)

  2. Evan says:

    It could be that men and women race mass start races with different tactics. Big mass sprints for the line seem to be far more common in men’s races then in women’s races.

  3. Michael says:

    Agree with both Aldo and Evan. There have only been 3 women on the WC tour that have won races. Everyone else is either some ways off the pace or way off the pace. What you see is what you get in the women’s WC. In the mens, it’s much, much close, and the mass starts bear that out. There are probably 15 or 20 men that are capable of winning distance races, and even more that are capable of winning sprints. The attendence is also poor for the women. It used to be normal to have 70 women on the starting line, now you are lucky if you get 52.

  4. Fiona says:

    1999? That’s when Bjorn Daehlie retired.

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