Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking for a Level Playing Field

I'm fascinated by the question of which countries do best in which races. I guess this is partly driven by the British love of the underdog, so any "unexpected" success is to be applauded. Come on China (as long as you don't beat the GBR runners).

So it's time to look at the numbers. Take all individual WOC finals since 2001 (when the Sprint race was introduced). Allocate 50 points to the winner, 49 for second and so on for all finishers. Add up the scores for each country. Then to allow for the fact that I have included the 2008 Sprint race result already, normalise by looking at percentage of the total number of points scored. What do you get and what does it mean?

What you get is the table at the bottom of this post. What it means is much more open to question but let me offer some thoughts. Little if any of this is statistically significant, but it's fun anyway.

1) The totals column shows that world orienteering falls neatly into four groups.
  • At the top we have the big four: Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. They are in fact remarkably evenly balanced on the calculations used here.
  • Then we have a group of eight countries with consistent solid results: Russia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Lithuania and Australia. Russia are probably making the move towards the big time, but I'd need time to do some moving average calculations to back this up. Lithuania and Australia are possibly surprise nations at this level.
  • The third group consists of Estonia, Ukraine, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Bulgaria, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Spain and New Zealand.
  • And then there is a fourth group of everyone else, none of whom are even yet close to making the move up to the third division.

2) Looking at the Sprint race column:
  • Finland, Norway, Russia, Estonia seem to do worse in Sprint races than their overall performance. Norwegian and Finnish results appear very bad indeed in comparison with the other two disciplines.
  • Great Britain, Austria and possibly Japan, the United State, China, Croatia and South Africa seem to do better in Sprint races than their overall performance
3) Looking at the Middle race column:
  • Great Britain, Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary and Belgium seem to do worse in Middle races than their overall performance.
  • Finland, France (the Thierry factor), Lithuania, Poland, Belarus and the Netherlands seem to do better in Middle races than their overall performance
4) Looking at the Long race column:
  • France, Lithiuania, Australia, Poland and Japan seem to do worse in Long races than their overall performance.
  • Norway, Russia, Estonia and Germany seem to do better in Long races than their overall performance.
5) Switzerland and Sweden are notably consistent across all disciplines.

6) A final note of hope for the smaller nations: the only appearances of a "big four" nation in the "worse than normal" list are Finland and Norway in the Sprint race. This is the discipline where you probably have the best chance of success, whatever that means.

It's the Middle race tomorrow. Watch out for Finland, France, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus and the Netherlands I reckon.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Very intersting. Thanks for doing this.