Continuing on from last time, we take a look at male long distance specialists. Recall I’m being all “fancy” here and using a fairly sophisticated modeling technique to identify skiers who tended to have better major international results at longer distances.
If you’re familiar with any statistics, you can think of it as an extension of a linear regression model, where we’re estimating a coefficient for each skier that (hopefully) captures the effect of race length on their individual results. As before, we’ll focus in on those for whom the model identified at least a nominally “significant” effect:
My general impression has been that smaller, Eastern European nations tend to produce folks who like the longer distances, and that seems consistent with what we’re seeing here. Along with some usual suspects, of course, like the Italians. North Americans may be surprised (or maybe not) to see Alex Harvey second in this ranking. Remember, this analysis included all skiers I have sufficient records for since 1992. Alex Harvey has done very disproportionately better at longer distances, although his career is still young.
Again, I like the mix of very big names and relatively unknown folks. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are several names that pop here who have been linked to performance enhancing drugs.
But how about Herve Balland? How many young cross country skiers (at least in my part of the world) do you think have heard of him? Not only was he particularly good at 50k’s, but he appears to have been a freestyle specialist as well, back before you’d think technique specialization was common. For the record, I have 11 top 15 results from him in major events and 9 of those are in distances of 30k or higher.
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