Marit Bjoergen’s Best Freestyle Race

JoranNovember 30, 2010

Marit Bjørgen commented somewhere that her win at the WC opener in Gällivare, SWE was “the best skate race of her life”.  Sadly, I can’t find where I read that, otherwise I’d have a link for you.  Obviously, I found that kind of intriguing.  Let’s look at Bjørgen’s race in a bit more detail:

This is the difference in percent back between Bjørgen and the top thirty women at Gällivare in all skate races where they’ve competed against each other.  (Since there’s quite a bit of data on Bjørgen I was able to be a bit more picky and only include skiers she’s raced against at least 5 times.)  The red line indicates the median percent back difference for each season.

This isn’t a direct comparison to specific races, of course, so this doesn’t tell us directly whether this particular race (in the blue) is better than any of her past skating efforts, but it provides some useful context.  The most obvious thing to note is that the seasons with the most similar looking performances are from 2004-05 and 2005-06, where Bjørgen appears to have never lost a major freestyle race against these particular skiers (all the dots are below zero).  Additionally, the median percent back difference from Gällivare is quite a bit below the median from any other season.

A little editorial comment here.  Statisticians tend to react to extreme events differently than other people.  The typical response is to assume that this sort of thing is going to keep happening, whereas statisticians will tend to assume it was a rare event, unlikely to happen again.  In this case when Bjørgen opens the season by absolutely crushing the field, there’s a natural tendency to begin to expect Bjørgen to destroy the field like this all season long (or at least to seriously suspect this is going to happen).  My reaction was more along the lines of “There’s no way she can sustain that level of dominance for any length of time.”

Now, Bjørgen may well continue to win races, perhaps most of them.  But I doubt we’re going to see her rack up margins of victory above 2.5% on a regular basis.  Unless, of course, she does, in which case I’ll eat my words.

But how about a more direct, simple comparison?   How did that victory compare to Marit’s other WC/OWG/WSC wins?

Marit Bjoergen’s Victory Margins

Date Start Tech Length Second Place Points % Back
2005-12-10 Pursuit FC 15 SCOTT Beckie 0.16 0.01
2010-03-13 Mass F 30 STEIRA Kristin Stoermer 0.33 0.02
2004-12-11 Pursuit FC 15 SMIGUN-VAEHI Kristina 0.59 0.04
2004-11-20 Interval C 10 SMIGUN-VAEHI Kristina 0.52 0.06
2007-03-24 Pursuit FC 15 NEUMANNOVA Katerina 1.44 0.1
2010-03-20 Pursuit FC 10 STEIRA Kristin Stoermer 1.82 0.13
2005-02-26 Mass C 30 KUITUNEN Virpi 2.38 0.17
2010-11-27 Interval C 5 KOWALCZYK Justyna 2.18 0.27
2010-02-19 Pursuit FC 15 HAAG Anna 5.2 0.37
2010-03-06 Pursuit FC 15 KOWALCZYK Justyna 6.45 0.46
2005-03-19 Pursuit FC 15 NEUMANNOVA Katerina 7.02 0.5
2007-12-02 Interval C 10 JACOBSEN Astrid 4.2 0.53
2005-03-12 Interval C 30 NEUMANNOVA Katerina 4.38 0.55
2005-01-08 Interval C 10 PEDERSEN Hilde G. 5.12 0.64
2006-03-04 Mass C 45 PEDERSEN Hilde G. 13.88 0.99
2007-11-24 Interval F 10 SKOFTERUD Vibeke W 10.3 1.29
2005-11-19 Interval C 10 KUITUNEN Virpi 10.67 1.33
2005-11-26 Interval C 10 KUITUNEN Virpi 14.56 1.82
2009-11-21 Interval C 10 KALLA Charlotte 15.96 2
2010-11-20 Interval F 10 KALLA Charlotte 23.02 2.88

Margins of victory in Marit Bjoergen’s major distance races.

So yeah, not only could you make a case that that was her best skate race, you might argue it was her best race ever, simply measuring it by margin of victory.  Notice how many of her biggest wins came in November, though?  Like, nearly all of them?  Maybe Bjørgen is just less interested in this whole “peaking” thing I keep hearing about.

This got me wondering what the biggest margin of victories were ever in WC/OWG/WSC races (or at least since 1992, where I have data):

Largest Margins of Victory

Date Gender Start Tech Length First Second % Back Points
2007-01-06 Women Mass C 15 KUITUNEN Virpi SAARINEN Aino-Kaisa 1.47 20.59
2000-02-20 Men Mass F 72 MUEHLEGG Johann ELOFSSON Per 1.94 27.17
2002-12-21 Women Pursuit FC 10 SKARI MARTINSEN Bente BJOERGEN Marit 1.96 19.59
1997-01-12 Women Pursuit Break FC 15 BELMONDO Stefania NEUMANNOVA Katerina 2.08 24.98
2010-03-21 Men Handicap F 15 MANIFICAT Maurice VYLEGZHANIN Maxim 2.25 27.06
1998-03-14 Women Interval C 30 LAZUTINA Larissa NAGEJKINA Swetlana 2.36 18.87
1993-12-11 Women Interval C 5 VAELBE Elena EGOROVA Ljubov 2.4 19.18
2003-01-25 Women Mass C 10 SKARI MARTINSEN Bente PEDERSEN Hilde G. 2.43 24.34
1995-03-12 Women Interval C 5 LAZUTINA Larissa GAVRILJUK Nina 2.53 20.27
2008-12-31 Women Interval C 9 KUITUNEN Virpi SAARINEN Aino-Kaisa 2.53 20.25
2006-11-26 Women Interval C 10 KUITUNEN Virpi BJOERGEN Marit 2.62 20.99
2008-01-06 Women Pursuit F 9 SHEVCHENKO Valentina STEIRA Kristin Stoermer 2.7 37.84
1995-01-29 Men Interval C 15 SMIRNOV Vladimir ISOMETSAE Jari 2.76 22.04
1997-03-08 Men Interval C 15 DAEHLIE Bjoern SIVERTSEN Sture 2.85 22.78
1995-03-10 Women Interval C 15 LAZUTINA Larissa VAELBE Elena 2.88 23.03
2010-11-20 Women Interval F 10 BJOERGEN Marit KALLA Charlotte 2.88 23.02
1994-02-13 Women Interval F 15 DI CENTA Manuela EGOROVA Ljubov 3.29 26.34
2003-02-15 Women Interval C 5 SKARI MARTINSEN Bente SCOTT Beckie 3.33 19.96
1999-11-27 Women Interval C 5 SKARI MARTINSEN Bente MOEN Anita 3.42 27.38
2007-02-16 Women Interval F 10 NEUMANNOVA Katerina PHILIPPOT Karine 4.5 36.02

Largest margins of victory since 1992.

Astute readers will realize that we can’t really count Neumannova’s win in 2007, since those China WC’s were not exactly the same as a typical WC race.  I am unsurprised to see Bente Skari Martinsen near the top of this list (and on it multiple times).  And of course, there are the odd “unusual” races, like Magnificat’s win at the WC final, where race tactics for the overall standings was probably playing a role.

Related posts:

  1. <Victims & Nemeses: Marit and Justyna Edition
  2. <Head-to-Head: Marit vs Justyna
  3. <Race Snapshot: Gällivare

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