Encouraging Signs From Liz Stephen
One of the more exciting stories out of the early season FIS races in Muonio, Finland was the strong performances from Liz Stephen. Now, being a cautious, data centric guy, I also tend to be a bit of a downer. So I am loathe to predict much based on a single race, although there have been other signs of dramatically improvements from her, such as her dominant win at the Climb To The Castle roller-ski race. Still, I remain only cautiously optimistic.
One interesting way to look at things is this. Stephen was only 4.5 seconds behind Justyna Kowalczyk in the Muonio 10k freestyle race. If she had been the same percentage behind Kowalczyk in every interval start distance race last season, Stephen would have accumulated 7 top tens and 4 podiums. So the big question in my mind is (ignoring the question of whether Kowalczyk had a good day that day) was this Muonio race more like Stephen’s ceiling, or her average? If it’s more like the former, than I’d say she has a decent shot at maybe 1-2 top tens this season, but still a significant long shot for a podium. If this was more like an average race for her, then, well, we’re in for an exciting season indeed. And of course there’s plenty of room in between those two extremes.
For completeness, let’s look at graphs that compare Stephen’s results in the Muonio freestyle and classic races versus only the top 30 in each respective race that’s she’s face before in the past. First the freestyle race:
Somewhat confusingly, up is better for Stephen in this graph. The blue dots are this specific freestyle race, and the grey band is what’s “typical” against these skiers in past seasons. Note that the classic race (below) was also good, but not as much: