Why North American Historical Statistics Are Important

FasterSkierDecember 3, 2005

Last week we posted an article on FasterSkier.com called Historical Statistics: Top North American Male World Cup Skiers http://www.fasterskier.com/opinion2664.html . An unusual high number of readers added their comments below the article. Lots of new names, history, insight and good suggestions were discussed and commented on.

We’ll look at all the suggested names and come up with draft list #2 next month. A women’s list is the works but might take more time. Thanks to John Estle for giving some names to start with. Combining results/lists from different sports seems to me as an impossible task and I suggest that someone dealing with biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic-combined create separate lists for those sports.

From my point of view, the comments from Tim Kelley and Jim Galanes’ (see below) stood out for one simple reason: they both touched at why I saw a need for such a list in the first place.

My reasons were as follow:

1. It’s good to have records. The upcoming generation of North American World Cup skiers, their coaches and the public need a measurement of what has been done in the past. They need to know what it takes to be considered good, great or excellent in a historical perspective. These are records that the new generations of cross country skiers need to aim to get close to, reach and break.

2. Most of the skiers from the past that ended up on the list, and the skiers who competed with the skiers on the list, never became rich, famous or household names. Cross country skiing was something they did because they loved the sport and the challenge. They worked hard but for success to occur they had to overcome more than their competitors “superior talent and researched training methods”. It is now known that these skiers competed against fields where maybe up to half a dozen nations systematically doped. More than half of the medals/podiums, top 10 and top 20-30 in every single World Cup race, Worlds and Olympics race for the last 3-4 decades have (most likely) been captured by dopers. For that reason I felt that creating a top-ten list of skiers that I truly believe competed with guts, talent and hard training without cheating was important. These guys were good, a lot better that their “official” results shows. They have one advantage over those who beat them by cheating; they can walk tall and be proud of their “not ever great results”. The dopers on the other hand have nothing to be proud of — BIG DIFFERENCE!

Side note:
The number of dopers in World Cup racing has most likely been reduced since the 2002 Olympics, but it would be naïve to not think that designer drugs and new methods are being used.

Tim Kelley – Anchorage, AK, posted on Nov 17, 2005

I think making a list of North American skiers to herald is good.

But the process of making such a list highlights the damage and disappointment doping has done to our sport.

If it wasn't for doping (of various types): Would Bill Koch have been North America's first xc Oly gold medalist? Would the criteria for this list be top 10 WC instead of top 20 to keep the list small? Would North America have had more Oly and WC medal winners?

And are we really comparing apples to apples when you compare results from the doper decades to the WADA times now?

These questions can't be answered. So any historical list will unfortunately have a “doper factor” cloud over it. And that's a bummer.

jim galanes – Anchorage, AK, posted on Nov 17, 2005

In past years, as it most certainly is today, doping was very prevalant. The only difference was that back in my day, and yours by the way, it was not under any level of scrutiny.

It is hard to say what any of our result might have been had in not been for doping. Certainly we all may have done better. But much can be said of today’s athletes as well. Even with the extensive testing we still do not know who is really clean or if the sport of cross country is free from doping. For example it may be years, and quite possibly never, before we find out if Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong are/were really clean.

Given all these uncertanties, all we can look at the results, the effort the athlete put forth, and call it good!

From my perspective we need to look at a few more key individuals who through the guidance, leadership and passion for the sport paved the way for the success in the late 70's and early 80's. Folks like Martha Rockwell, Bob Gray, Mike Gallagher, and Mike Elliot were true leaders and role models in the sport.



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