Career Retrospective: Silvana Bucher

Another retiring skier that I’m only passingly familiar with, Switzerland’s Silvana Bucher. Like Vina the other day, she hasn’t raced a ton at the WC level in distance events:

Or sprints: Read more

Career Retrospective: Emilie Vina

A few other athletes that I was less familiar with are also retiring, according to FIS, beginning with France’s Emilie Vina. Naturally, I head over to Wikipedia and discover that apparently she’s a non-commissioned officer? Huh. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she were a biathlete, I suppose, but that’s not a combination you see much in cross country.

Compared to many of the retiring skiers I profile here, her distance WC racing was relatively limited:

And not her most successful event. She did do a lot more sprinting, though: Read more

Career Retrospective: Jens Arne Svartedal

Another accomplished specialist, Jens Arne Svartedal, is retiring as well. While no slouch in distance events, he had more success in sprinting. But his real specialty was classic skiing.

My records show 25 WC level podium finishes for him, 7 in distance events and 18 in sprints. That includes his WSC Gold medal in the 2007 classic sprint. Two of his 7 distance podiums came from Tour de Ski stages. Every single distance podium was in a classic race, and all but one of them was a 15km interval start race. Svartedal podiumed three times in freestyle sprints, but never won one (2nd, 2nd and 3rd).

Here’s a look at his distance results, emphasizing his preference for classic skiing:

As I said, Svartedal didn’t collect as much hardware in distance events, but if it was a classic race, all those results below one standard deviation below the mean reliably placed him in the top ten. And he did manage to win a WC distance race back in 2006.

Here’s a similar look at his sprinting results: Read more

Career Retrospective: Björn Lind

Now that it’s been essentially a decade since sprinting came to the WC scene in a big way, we’re going to start to see skiers retiring who have specialized in sprinting to increasing degrees. Lind is a good example of this trend, as I have 74 WC level sprint races and only 6 WC level distance races from him. And four of those distance races came in the Tour de Ski.

Lind certainly had a fair amount of success, particularly between 2002-2006, racking up 10 podiums, including an Olympic Gold in 2006:

As you can see, 2006 was his strongest season, supplying fully half of the podiums of his entire career. Indeed, of his ten WC level sprint races that season, his worst was 9th, and all but two saw him reaching the top five. Post-2006, Lind suddenly became considerably less consistent, although he could still certainly pull together a strong race or two.

If Lind had a technique preference, he didn’t show it very much in his results: Read more

Career Retrospective: Vincent Vittoz

God this guy’s been around forever, it seems. His WC results stretch back continuously to the mid-90’s. During Vittoz’s international career I’ve,

  • graduated from high school
  • graduated from college
  • got a job
  • married the Statistical Wife
  • entered and finished graduate school, and then got a job
  • lived in 4 different states during this time
  • I’ve changed residence 7 times (post-college)

Christ. I mean, Piller Cottrer (and maybe a few others I’m forgetting) has been active for a bit longer, but still. Sadly, one of Vittoz’s claims to fame is being a solid contender for Best Skier Never To Win An Olympic Medal.

Vittoz rarely did sprints, and when he did he didn’t do them very well, so we’ll just focus on distance skiing. There, he racked up 24 podiums, including 1 WSC victory (thank God!) and a TdS stage win. But in all that he never put one together at the Olympics. (He also won the WC overall title back in 2005, I believe.) The only people I’ve been able to find with even remotely similar numbers (# of seasons + # of podiums) without an individual distance Olympic medal are, well, how about I list a few: Read more


First Arianna Follis retires, and now we learn that Marianna Longa is heading out the door (again!). This strikes me as quite a blow to the Italian women’s team. Before I wrote this post, if you asked me to list some other top Italian women besides Follis and Longa off the top of my head, I’d probably have been able to name Magda Genuin, Antonella Confortella and maybe one or two others if I’d really thought about it.

Going back through some data, it does seem like the Italian women are really going to be struggling next year, particularly in putting together a relay team. I’ve put together some graphs of the remaining contenders, though I’m by no means an expert in up-and-coming Italian women, so I apologize if I’ve omitted someone important.

First we have some “older” ladies:

Genuin is a talented sprinter, with several WC level podiums and numerous top tens. She’s not a spectacular distance skier, though, as her best results just break the 50 FIS point level. Confortola is a stronger distance skier, but she’s only cracked the top ten four times in a WC level race, and 36 is fairly old for WC skiers. Also, her results have been trending in the wrong direction lately.

Then we have some folks in their mid to late twenties: Read more

Career Retrospective: Petra Majdic

What can you say about Petra Majdic? The Slovenian was delightfully hard to miss on the ski trails. Known as a classic sprint specialist, she was no slouch at distance events either:

From 2002 forward, that is some very consistent skiing, year in, year out. I realize that standardized percent behind the median skier may be a little hard for you to get a sense for, so here’s a different way of looking at it. Majdic’s median distance result from 2002 on was basically 11th. She slipped a bit in 2004 and 2005 (median of 17th in those seasons), but every other season her median was ~11th or better.

You might notice the sudden appearance of higher quality races beginning in 2006. My first thought was that this corresponded (roughly) with the start of the Tour de Ski, an event that Majdic has excelled at. Additionally, the unusual formats and smaller fields can sometimes produce unusually extreme differences compared to the median skier. But only 1/3 of those races below -1.5 after 2006 came from the Tour, so she probably stepped up her distance skiing generally. Note, though, that the presence of several much stronger results only slightly reduces her median results in any given season. I point this out only to remind once again about the difference between gauging performance based on someone’s best results versus their ‘average’ result.

That said, the Tour has been friendly to Majdic’s distance racing. Half of her distance podium results have come from Tour stages. And she surely is stronger in classic events: Read more

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