WORLD CUP TECHNICAL ANALYSIS


Now that the 2012-2015 World Cup season is underway, I plan to start interspersing analyses of the technique of racers such as Ligety, Maze, Vonn, Shiffrin, Hosp and Velez Zuzzuolva. There is an emerging trend towards the extension-pendulum effect technique that is the signature of Ligety and Shiffrin.

After indicating before the start of the season that she would make her debut in World Cup Super-G this year,  Shiffrin  recently announced that she would not compete in the Super-G in Val d’sere next week but would instead focus on GS. This came after Shiffrin’s worst drought since her the first of her 10 World Cup victories two years ago. I suspect that Shiffrin’s difficulties can be attributed to a change in some aspect of her equipment, most likely her boots. She looked much closer to her usual form in Are last Saturday. If the source of her problems was, in fact, in her boots and this has been corrected, I am confident that she will regain her form in the new year. Focussing on GS is a smart move by Shiffrin. If Shiffrin can dominate in GS she has an excellent chance of winning in Super-G.

One of the challenges in analyzing technique using video clips is that the camera angles and image quality are typically far from ideal. In addition, cameras often switch at key moments in a sequence, usually part way through the transition phase that starts at the end of a turn. Finding a sequence that illustrates the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing can take hours of frame by frame analysis followed by additional hours of work annotating and animating the key images. More interesting than the racers who are very close to getting every aspect of a technique right are those who make the essentially the right moves at initiation only to have to resort to survival tactics usually due to interference from their ski boots.

Since extension is a hot topic on the internet, mainly due to Ligety’s very effective use of it, extension will be the subject of  my next post.

2 comments

  1. Dave: I see that on Harold Harb’s ski blog he also attributes Shiffrin’s weak performance so far this year to deficiencies in her new boots. You and he appear to be on side with that opinion. He suggests she go back to last years boots that flex differently and allow her angles to be better. Others think it is just some kind of mental block this year. I guess that could be tested by using last years boots and see what happens? Possibly the equipment
    pool team sponsors would not like that idea though ?

    1. I was going to do a post on extension next. But since I am have received confirmation from reliable sources that my theory that Shiffrin switched ski boots this season appears to be correct, I am in the process of writing a post on the perils of changing ski boots. As for those who think Shiffrin has acquired some sort of mental block, what do they think would happen to Tony Stewart if his car brand told him that he must race NASCAR events in a stock sedan right off the showroom floor? Stewart would definitely have a huge mental block because he would not have a hope in hell of even qualifying let alone finishing a race. I have seen the Shiffrin Effect as I am calling it, many, many times after a racer who was getting results took a few runs in a new boot and made the mistake of concluding that it was no different than their current boot. This effect was first identified by the Human Performance Laboratory in Calgary, Alberta in the early 1990s. It is due to motor pattern decay. More in my next post.

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