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Top US Results Have A Freestyle Bias

I don’t think it’s any secret that US skiers tend to have somewhat better results on the World Cup (and OWG/WSC/TdS) in freestyle events. Let’s quantify that a bit, starting with distance races:

I’ve plotted major international results of both techniques (so no skiathlons) for the US men & women for the last decade or so. I’m just using finishing place as the measure, to keep things simple and easily interpretable. The lines represent the 50th & 10th percentiles for each technique. I had to use two sets of lines with the same colors (blue = freestyle, red = classic) so I labelled the sets as 50th and 10th percentile.

There’s a distinct separation between techniques for the US women that has persisted for quite a while. For the US men, I’d say that the 50th percentile result is about the same for each technique, with a very small edge for freestyle in the 10th percentile, not terribly significant.

Here is the same plot for sprints:

Some interesting differences here. The women still have a consistent bias towards freestyle, but it’s considerably smaller, and the difference for the 10th percentile has narrowed in recent years. The men seemed to have very little difference between techniques until recently when a fairly substantial gap has developed, again favoring freestyle. Part of me wonders how much of that is the result of just one skier, Andrew Newell, declining slightly later in his career and then mostly retiring.