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Career Retrospective: Pirjo Muranen

Finnish sprinter Pirjo Muranen is one of several skiers hanging up their skis for good this year. I’ll be devoting a post to each of them over the next few Fridays, but first the Finnish sprinter.

Muranen was certainly a successful skier, though not an overpowering one. She has an individual Gold and Bronze from the World Championships in 2001 and 2009, but all of her other Olympic and World Championship medals are from relays. A solid distance skier, her best result was 4th in a 10km mass start in 2009, but she has numerous top tens. Additionally, Muranen has participated in the Tour de Ski three times improving from 22nd, to 15th, to 12th in the overall standings.

Let’s start with her WC, WSC and OWG distance results:

Recall that I’m using standardized percent back the median skier here, and in general values below 0 are good, values below -1 are excellent and values below -2 are unbelievable.

Muranen’s extraordinary race from this season was her 6th place in the waxing plagued 10km classic at World Championships. Other than that, her best races tended to be around -1 to -1.5. Obviously, Muranen experienced some difficulties leading up to the 2006 season. I haven’t followed her closely, so I’m not sure what caused this, but she sure rebounded back from 2007 forward.

Here’s the same graph broken down by technique:

She would appear to have generally preferred classic skiing; indeed she only did classic races this season. One of her best freestyle races appears to have been a 5km WC back in Nov of 2002 in Kiruna, Sweden; she finished 7th.

Sprinting, of course, was more Muranen’s cup of tea:

She managed 17 podiums in sprint races, five of them all the way back in 2000-2001. And she never quite regained that level of dominance, although sprinting has certainly changed quite a bit since then. There was also that minor issue the Finns ran into in 2001, although to my knowledge she’s never been implicated in anything improper. Just as in her distance racing, Muranen had a sharp decline in 2006. After mentioning it twice, I’m sure one of my commenters will educated me about what was going on with her life that may have caused this (injury? baby?).

Still, Muranen was a fairly consistent presence in the semifinals, at least between 2003-2005 and again between 2007-2009. Things dropped off a bit over the last two seasons, but she still had little difficulty qualifying for the heats. And finally, the same graph by technique:

Interestingly, Muranen was primarily a freestyle sprinter up to 2005, but after that she seemed to improve her classic sprinting dramatically.


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