One topic that’s going to come up over and over again over the next 10 months or so is to what degree Kikkan Randall may be the gold medal “favorite” for the freestyle sprint in Sochi.
If you look over the past several seasons, the first thing you have to note is that two of the more dominant freestyle sprinters are now retired: Arianna Follis and Petra Majdic. Vesna Fabjan is a decent sprinter, but she’s never beaten Kikkan in the twelve times they’ve met in freestyle sprints over the past two seasons. Similarly, Hanna Falk is 0-7, Celine Brun-Lie is 0-6 and Natalia Matveeva is 0-9. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg? She’s 1-9.
The most obvious threats, in terms of how they’ve performed against Kikkan directly, would appear to be Ida Ingemarsdotter, Maiken Caspersen Falla and of course Marit Bjoergen. Ingemarsdotter and Falla are both 3-6 against Kikkan over the past two seasons, while Bjoergen is 1-3. And in Bjoergen’s case, we need to be careful to consider that they only faced each other once last season, and sprints did not seem to be a major focus for Marit.
All three, Bjoergen, Falla and Ingemarsdotter did many fewer freestyle sprints last season than the year before, and I have no idea to what degree they will all consider the Olympic sprint a “focus” race next season. But there are 5 freestyle sprints (if you count the one during the TdS) prior to Sochi next year. Those five races will probably be the most informative on the question of picking a favorite for Sochi. But at the moment, I still consider the gold medal basically a toss-up between Kikkand and Marit.
(Allowing, of course, for the fact that sprinting is insane, and crashes can happen at any time to anyone. You never know…)
Sorry for my recent absence. Never fear, I haven’t abandoned this project, but things may be a bit more sparse than usual over the summer. Feel free to drop me a line with question or ideas for posts, though, as that will be good motivation for me.
In that vein, a reader asked me to revisit a post I did quite a while ago comparing Bjoergen, Skari and Vaelbe. As before, we need to note that I really only have data on the later years of Vaelbe’s career. But here’s what I have (click for larger version):
The 2010-2011 season is looking more and more like a bit of an outlier for Bjoergen, but she’s still maintaining a somewhat better median performance than Vaelbe did later in her career. Skari is probably roughly on par with Bjoergen, though Bjoergen has had considerably fewer “bad” races of late.