Best Season Ever: Distance

JoranOctober 18, 2012

Well, ok, not ever.  Just over the past 20 seasons or so.

There are all sorts of different ways we could measure this.  First, some ground rules: I’m only going to look at actual World Cup races, no Olympics or World Championships.  I’m also excluding Tour de Ski events because these are my rules, so I get to make them up.  Seriously, though, I think Olympic and World Championship races should count differently (i.e. more), so later on I’ll redo this but in a weighted fashion.

I’m not going to just single out a skier’s top five races, either.  If you’re going be considered for a “best season ever” prize, we’re not going to ignore a handful bad races!  Also, you must to have done at least 5 races for your season to count.

I’m going to use three different measures: average FIS points, average finishing place and the proportion of victories.  Generally, they all track each other nearly identically, so the point isn’t to compare/contrast between them.  Rather, having all three gives us a fuller picture of each season.

First let’s look at data for everyone:

That’s everyone in my database over 19 seasons, every season with at least 5 starts.  As you can see, average rank and average FIS points track each other pretty well.  Interestingly, the people with the worst seasons are the ones with the fewest number of races, in general.  This probably just reflects the fact that if you aren’t getting more than 5-6 WC starts in a season, chances are it’s because you actually aren’t terribly fast.  There are exceptions, of course.

Let’s focus in on the top ten seasons for men and women, as ranked by average FIS points (the ranking hardly changes at all if you use average finishing place).

Name Nation Season Avg Rank Avg Points Win Pct Num of Races
ELOFSSON Per SWE 2000-2001 2.333 2.581 0.667 9
DAEHLIE Bjoern NOR 1998-1999 1.889 2.839 0.556 9
SOMMERFELDT Rene GER 2003-2004 4.438 4.764 0.125 16
DAEHLIE Bjoern NOR 1995-1996 1.929 4.943 0.429 14
FREDRIKSSON Mathias SWE 2002-2003 4.077 5.05 0.308 13
BAUER Lukas CZE 2002-2003 5.5 5.979 0.125 8
ULVANG Vegard NOR 1991-1992 2.375 6.992 0.375 8
DAEHLIE Bjoern NOR 1991-1992 3.75 7.085 0.5 8
ANGERER Tobias GER 2006-2007 4.222 7.286 0.333 9
ALSGAARD Thomas NOR 2001-2002 4.455 7.385 0.273 11
Name Nation Season Avg Rank Avg Points Win Pct Num of Races
SKARI MARTINSEN Bente NOR 2002-2003 1.75 0.862 0.833 12
BJOERGEN Marit NOR 2004-2005 2 3.383 0.556 9
VAELBE Elena RUS 1994-1995 2.636 3.399 0.727 11
NEUMANNOVA Katerina CZE 2003-2004 3.143 4.5 0.571 7
BJOERGEN Marit NOR 2010-2011 1.818 5.685 0.727 11
BJOERGEN Marit NOR 2009-2010 2.111 6.24 0.444 9
KOWALCZYK Justyna POL 2008-2009 3.917 6.833 0.333 12
VAELBE Elena RUS 1992-1993 2.556 7.501 0.222 9
LAZUTINA Larissa RUS 1997-1998 3.556 7.624 0.444 9
BJOERGEN Marit NOR 2011-2012 1.929 7.651 0.5 14

Not surprisingly, several names appear multiple times on each list.  Bjoern Daehlie had a lot of dominant season, but man, I remember Per Elofsson in 2000-2001.  Well, not personally.  But I do remember that he was pretty unbeatable.

When it comes to dominating performances, though, we all have to tip our hats to Bente Skari Martinsen and her 2002-2003 season, which is considerably better than the other top seasons among the women.

One interesting aspect of these tables is how low the win percentage is.  That’s just the proportion of races they won.  There are a few high values, notably Bente Skari Martinsen, Elena Vaelbe (1994-1995), Elofsson (2000-2001), Neumannova (2003-2004) and Bjoergen (2004-2005).  But many of these seasons (and remember, these are “best season ever” candidates) involve a skier winning less than half their races.  This should highlight how difficult it is for skiers, even the very best skiers, to win on any given day.

Finally, since I can’t leave you with boring tables (even if they are sortable), here’s a graph of some of the top seasons in both dimensions: rank and FIS points.

The overplotting makes the names hard to read at times, but if you squint you can make a lot of them out.

As for who actually wins, I’m going to skip picking a men’s and women’s winner and just say that Bente Skari Martinsen’s 2002-2003 season was pretty frickin’ incredible.  She opened the season with an 8th (9.73 FIS points) in a 5km skate race and her second to last race was a 3rd (0.61 FIS points) in a 10km skate.  But she won every other WC that year.

Related posts:

  1. <Most Unimproved Men: Distance
  2. <Most Unimproved Women: Distance
  3. <Is It Panic Time For The Norwegian Men’s Distance Skiers?

Related Posts



November 21, 2012


November 21, 2012