World Statistics Day: Why Wierer beat Eckhoff and JT Boe beat Fourcade
The BMW IBU World Cup Women’s and Men’s Total Score winners for the 2019/2020 season were decided at the last standing shooting of the last competition in Kontiolahti, Finland. At the end of a fantastic and most unusual season, Dorothea Wierer collected seven more points than Tiril Eckhoff while JT Boe collected two more points than Martin Fourcade. They both defended the highly coveted trophy they won the season before. As 20 October is UN World Statistics Day, we examined how that happened.
Women: How did that happen?
Wierer started the 2019/2020 season with a bang, even though she barely had any time during the spring and summer months to reflect on her momentous previous season: in 2018/2019, she won her first Total Score title as well as her first individual gold medal at the IBU World Championships. Her popularity on the Italian market shot through the sky. She began the 2019/2020 season shooting with 87% accuracy in Trimester 1 while skiing 4 percent faster than average. Eckhoff had a disastrous start to the 2019/2020 season in Oestersund but changed her fortunes with her first 20/20 and the pursuit win in Hochfilzen; she finished Trimester 1 shooting with 83% accuracy and skiing 6 percent faster than average. The Norwegian elevated her performance in Trimester 2, shooting with 87.5% accuracy and skiing at -5. Wierer’s form and health faltered slightly in Trimester 2, and her shooting accuracy dropped to 82% while her speed stayed at -4. Then came the IBU World Championships in Antholz-Anterselva 2020 and Wierer’s personal encounter with history. Wierer raised her standards above her average and shot with 88.5% accuracy (compared to 85.5% in the previous three seasons) while she kept her speed at a career-best -4 to win two gold medals and one silver medal. Eckhoff, on the other hand, shot way beneath her average for the 2019/2020 season up to that point (84.75%) and on par with her usual average accuracy in the previous three seasons, 75.7%. As a result, Wierer won 210 World Cup points to Eckhoff’s 83 in Antholz-Anterselva. Furthermore, when Eckhoff had Wierer on the ropes before the last standing shooting of the pursuit in Kontiolahti, she shot with just 70% accuracy and allowed Wierer, who shot with 75% accuracy, to win the Total Score. In the 2019/2020 season, Wierer took 462 shots and missed 80 while Eckhoff took 423 shots and missed 78.
The lingering question for the algorithms would be: to what extent does Wierer’s super-fast shooting cadence influence the psyche of her competitors and how much time does it win her per competition?
Men: How did that happen?
JT Boe started the 2019/2020 season as the best biathlete by an overwhelming margin, shooting with a career-best 89% accuracy and skiing at -5 in Trimester 1. Fourcade tried to match JT on the shooting range and came very close on a few occasions, but his forte, a calm shooting cadence, wavered a bit and he shot with 88% accuracy. With JT gone for the first two weeks of Trimester 2, Fourcade started to dictate his own rhythm, shooting with an incredible 97% accuracy while skiing at -4. JT only competed in the Pokljuka week and shot at 95% accuracy while still skiing at -5. Antholz-Anterselva 2020 brought both great men a lot of fresh glory. While JT kept his speed at above -5 and Fourcade kept his at -4, the Norwegian shot with 92.8% accuracy and Fourcade with 91.4% accuracy. JT took 208 points from Antholz-Anterselva 2020 into the last two weeks of the season while Fourcade had 187. At the end of the season, JT’s accuracy stood at 89% and Fourcade’s at 91% while JT skied at -5.4 and Fourcade at -4.3. JT shot 388 times and missed 40 shots while Fourcade shot 405 times and missed just 33 shots.
With his stats from last season, Fourcade would have won the Total Score in any other season in the BMW IBU World Cup’s history—he was at his absolute best. It still wasn’t enough to top JT, though, who will start the 2020/2021 season as the fastest skier and the best shooter in the field.
How did winning the Women’s Total Score compare to winning the Men’s Total Score?
To win the Total Score title and beat Fourcade by two points, JT Boe had to be the fastest skier in the field (ahead of Quentin Fillon Maillet and Fourcade) and the second best shooter (behind Fourcade), if we consider athletes who competed for the whole season and had an average of 37 shots per week available in individual competitions. To win the women’s Total Score title and beat Eckhoff by seven points, Wierer had to be the seventh fastest skier at -3.7 (Eckhoff was the second fastest with -5.4) and only the 21st best shooter with 82% accuracy (Eckhoff was only 31st with 80% accuracy).
This data shows that over the course of the whole season, the top two men competed on a far more consistent level of excellence than the top two women.