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Diversity of Nationalities on the World Cup

Norwegians don’t win everything, but sometimes it can sure feel like it. A very common thing ecologists measure and study is species diversity in an ecosystem. We can do the same thing with nationalities finishing in the top 3, 10, etc in major international races. As you might imagine, there are quite a few ways to measure species diversity. I’m not interested in delving into the minutiae of all these measures, so we’ll just use a nice, boring Shannon index:

Higher values indicate more diversity (among nationalities) for athletes who win, finish in the top 3, 10 etc. The Shannon diversity index was calculated for each group for each season. Note that my data is incomplete for parts of the 1980s.

The index values bounce around a fair bit from year to year in a way that seems like noise, but some larger trends also stand out. For instance, the mid-00s in women’s distance events was notably more diverse for the top finishers. I suspect a major driver of this may be 1-2 very talented female skiers from nations like Poland and the Czech Republic during that time period that you may know of. But since 2010, national diversity in women’s distance events at basically all levels has decreased.

Men’s distance events also seemed to see slightly more diversity during the 00s, at least at the podium level and above, but this also seems to be receding back to historical levels.

The diversity among women’s sprinting results seems to have been gradually declining for the past 15 years or so at all levels. Trends in the men’s sprint panel seem less apparent to me; mostly flat, maybe declining very recently.

One interesting thing that does stand out to me in all cases is the relative stability of the diversity of nationalities among the top 30 over the entire time range. Before I made this graph I probably wouldn’t have been too shocked if it had turned out that the 1980s had vastly less diversity than now, but that isn’t really the case it seems.

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