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Most Un-Improved: Sprint 2011

The final installment in the most improved/un-improved series. This time it’s the sprinters who saw the biggest drop-off in performance this season over last. Again, you can consult the first in the series for a detail description of my methodology. Basically, though, the following aspects are included:

  • A skier’s median result
  • The average of the skier’s best few results
  • Changes from season to season are adjusted to be relative to their specific performance the previous season; so a drop from 5th to 10th is roughly equivalent to a drop from 10th to 20th.

Here are graphs that display the 12 men and women with the biggest overall drop-off, in order from left to right, top to bottom (click through for full versions):

Nikita Kriukov had an exceptional season last year, but was mostly absent this season. Both he and Kalle Lassila did significantly fewer sprint WCs this season. Perhaps one of my readers can enlighten me about whether either of these guys was injured or sick for a portion of the season. Alexander Panzhinsky is a bit less ambiguous, as his results dropped off considerably across the board.

Then we have two Norwegians with rather similar names, Pettersen and Peterson. Obviously, these guys didn’t have quite the seasons that they did last year, but in this case I wonder how much of a factor the competitiveness of the Norwegian sprint team plays in this. Sprinting can be a little fickle, so I can imagine that on a team like Norway’s, if you aren’t killing it early on you just might not get as many starts. Again, Norwegian readers may have more to say about this.

Fabio Pasini is an interesting case, as his results seem to have fallen off continuously for two straight years now. Indeed, he only did a few sprint WCs this year.

I’m also amused by the graphs for Lasse Paakonen and Martin Koukal. All over the place, eh? In Koukal’s case, mainly I think he had two decent sprint races at the 2010 Tour de Ski, but didn’t fare so well in the same events this year. I don’t know much about Paakkonen, though.

As for the women, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s decline is easy to explain from her injury. Natalia Korosteleva had a strong season last year, but she only did six WC sprints this year and half of them she didn’t make the heats. Justyna Kowalczyk is an interesting case here. This is what happens when I “adjust” these rankings for each skier’s results the previous season. Kowalczyk was routinely in the finals last year, but she had a hard time making it past the semifinals this year. It doesn’t look like as dramatic a drop-off, but proportionally, it’s big.

Oxana Jatskaja had a fair number of decent sprint races last year, but she didn’t qualify for the heats once this year. Similarly, Kaija Udras had been a decent but not spectacular sprinter for two seasons and she also failed to make the heats once this season.

Two other folks I want to highlight are Hanna Falk and Marthe Kristoffersen.  Falk had such an outstanding year in 2010 at a young age, it’s perhaps not surprising that she wouldn’t quite be able to recreate it. (I’m not sure to what degree her eye surgery impacted her training.) I haven’t been following Kristoffersen very closely, so I’m not sure what’s going on with her, but the trend is not encouraging.


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