I think most people generally have a sense for how the past World Cup season went for the North Americans. What I’m going to do over the next few posts is to simply show some data that hopefully provides some context for what you already know. I’m going to split them into four posts for men/women and distance/sprint. Today we’ll start with the men’s distance performances.
Let’s start with the simplest of metrics, finishing place, and a style of graph that I’ve used before that shows the number of results per race at a given level:
As before, with the U23 racers we typically have more data to work with, since these folks have generally been around longer and so are likely to have raced against each other more often. We’ll continue using the percent back difference plots, that examine how a particular skier has fared against each of their competitors in the past. So let’s get a sense for what some of the North American performances mean, starting with Alex Harvey:
Harvey was certainly a favorite to win coming into this race, given his strong results on the World Cup this season, and he didn’t disappoint. Today’s race is in blue, with the median from today’s race in red and a red trend line to give you a sense of how his performance against these particular skiers has changed (or stayed the same) over time. What this graph suggests is that his victory today wasn’t an unusually good or bad performance for him; it also suggests that the folks today that he’s raced against before he’s almost always beaten.
Moving on to Noah Hoffman: Read more
I’ve been swamped with grading this week, so I feel a little bad about not posting anything about World Juniors specifically. I’ll try to put something together over the weekend. But these percent back difference plots are pretty easy to pump out for the U23s, since they tend to have a bit more racing behind them, and hence more data.
If you’ve forgotten what it is I’m plotting here, you can check here for an explanation. The basic idea is to compare someone’s performance (e.g. Musgrave’s) to their past performances against the particular people at that race. This provides for better, more stable, comparisons than simply plucking out a single skier to use as a benchmark.
First up, Andrew Musgrave:
This is mostly as I suspected. Musgrave’s race looks somewhat better than what he was averaging earlier this season. So, not terribly surprising that he had a good race, perhaps, but maybe more notable for how close it actually is to a typical race for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can put a great one together at World Championships and maybe break into the top thirty.
Noah Hoffman commented after his race something to the effect of “Meh.” He should know best:
I’ll have a post up tomorrow running through some of the notable European results from the weekend.
The short version of the weekend’s distance races goes something like this:
- Good: Kris Freeman, Kikkan Randall, Noah Hoffman, Liz Stephen
- Bad: Canadian men, Chris Cook
- Meh: Morgan Arritola, Andrey Newell
Here’s a closer look at the Americans:
Ninth place for Freeman is pretty darn good, but like last weekend in Muonio, not “skiing out of his brain” good. For an idea of just how “in line” this 9th place is with how he was skiing at the start of last season, check out the following head-to-head plot that looks at how he’s fared against the particular skiers at this WC race in the past:
For a fuller explanation of these plots see here. The blue is the Gällivare race, right in line with how Freeman stacked up against this crowd at the start of last season. But the downward (i.e. better) trend of his median performance (red line) is promising. Even more promising from my perspective was that it came in a freestyle race. Freeman managed a 7th in a 15km freestyle last December, a 10th and 14th in 2007, a 15th in 2005 and if you go all the way back to 2003, a 6th place in a 30km mass start. He’s generally been more comfortable classic skiing, so it’s nice to see him show some speed in freestyle. It also makes me hopeful for his chances in a 15km classic race, assuming he can keep this up.
As for Kikkan Randall, 19th is also pretty solid and confirms her steady improvement in the distance events. If you look at the corresponding head-to-head plot for her from Gällivare you see that she’s a little further behind the WC crowd than Freeman is, but the trend is encouraging: Read more
This is part two in a short series of season preview posts on USST athletes in which I’ll review each skier’s results to date and make some guesses about how they’ll fare in the upcoming season. I don’t have any special insight into the future beyond my database of past race results, and I certainly am not using some fancy predictive model. While I’ll likely support a fair bit of my guesses with data of some form, I obviously wouldn’t take any of my predictions to Vegas with you. And of course, my guesses are just me being a cynical realist, not necessarily an expression of what I’d like to happen.
The two newest members of the USST are kind of tough for me to write prognosticating posts about. They simply haven’t accumulated as much racing data for me to play with. I’ll throw up some graphs anyway, but in the end I have even less to go on here than for Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen.
Simi Hamilton sort of burst onto the scene last year with some impressive sprint results, including a win at US nationals and then winning the qualification round at U23s (he had a bit of a mishap with his pole in the elimination rounds and ended up 26th). This led to his inclusion on the US Olympic team, where he managed to make it through the qualification round to finish 29th in Vancouver.
He did three other WC sprint races last season, qualifying (in 23rd) for the elimination rounds in one of them to finish 28rd. That’s just not a lot of international level racing for me to compare to other sprinters. Still, here’s a plot of his sprint results so far: