Continuing on from earlier this week, we’ll look at some US men in the “development pipeline”, although I use that term pretty loosely. Basically I just mean some of the top US men who aren’t necessarily obviously going to be skiing WC full time or something. (Click for full versions.)
Miles Havlick and Erik Bjornsen are interesting cases, similar to Joanne Reid as I mentioned earlier. His FIS point trend is promising, but he’s mostly been on the “easy” part of the curve up until now.
I’m going to run two quick posts looking in on some of the US’s top men and women in the development pipeline (all that really means is that I’ve mostly, but not completely, excluded some “obvious” US Ski Team members).
We can check in on how these folks are doing by using my cohort plots, which compare their FIS points vs. age to the FIS points vs age earned by skiers who went on to finish in the top ten in a WC/OWG/WSC event. That’s a fairly low bar of just one top ten finish, ever, since I want to emphasize that I’m trying to be as generous as possible here. The following two plots summarize a few of the top US women (click for full versions):
The blue lines are the median FIS points for each athlete, and the gray shaded regions show the equivalent range of values at that age across all athletes who went on to achieve a top ten result in a WC/WSC/OWG event. I think this mostly speaks for itself, but I wanted to draw attention to Joanne Reid. One aspect of plots like these is that it’s much easier to look like you’re “on the path” prior to age 22 or so, simply because the FIS point curve bends so steeply up when you go back that young. She’s one to watch, but the next two years, where the FIS point curve start to flatten out, will be the first real test to see if she can keep pace.
The Sochi Olympics are naturally going to be the focus this season, and all the attention during Olympics is on winning medals. So naturally, much of the conversation of the next six months or so is going revolve around “Who’s going to win a medal at Sochi?”
Well, from one perspective, the answer is pretty simple: people who’ve been on the podium in the 1-1.5 seasons leading up to the Olympics. I’ll show you what I mean.
Let’s take all individual event podium finishers in each OWG/WSC back to 2002. That’s 3 Olympics and 3 World Championships. Next, we grab each of these people’s results in major international events during the preceding season and half or so. So for example, Alex Harvey earned a sprint medal at the 2013 WSC, so we’d pull all his sprint results for 2012-2013 prior to WSC, as well as everything from 2011-2012. Repeat for each podium finisher.
The graph below shows each podium winning skier’s best and median result in the 1.5 years leading up to an OWG/WSC podium:
The red line marks 3rd place.
So you can see just how rare it is for someone to land on the podium in a WSC/OWG without at least one podium finish in a WC or better event during the preceding year or so. And even for the folks who win a medal at a WSC/OWG event without a preceding podium finish, they are still managing to land in the top 10 in all but one instance.
Even more telling to me are the median results of the preceding 1.5 seasons. For women’s distance podium finishers at the WSC/OWG, their typical race over the previous 1.5 seasons is almost always a top ten finish.
Now, who actually were some of the exceptions in the graph above?
For brevity, only looking at the sprinting side, we had Alexander Panzhinskiy in 2010 and Peter Schlickenrieder (remember him?) in 2002, who’s best preceding sprint result was 5th. Roddy Darragon in 2006 and Alex Harvey in 2013, who’s recent best was 4th. Then we had the unusual year 2005, which had Sara Renner, Emelie Oehrstig, Lina Andersson and Vassili Rotchev who’s previous bests were 7th, 4th, 8th and 6th. Lina Andersson hadn’t even made the finals in the previous year and a half.
So who’s going to win medals in Sochi? Almost entirely the usual suspects. And maybe 1-3 folks who haven’t recently finished on the podium, but who have been regulars in the top ten.