Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Friday, April 02, 2004

The "Brian May" effect


I looked at how the U.S. compared to some of the peer nations at the 2003 WOC. I compared the U.S. runners to runners from five different peer nations, giving a nation a point each time a runner beat a runner from the other nation.

For example, comparing the U.S. and Canada, there were 12 times the U.S. runner beat a Canadian and 7 times a Canadian beat a U.S. runner. So the score is US 12 Canada 7.

Here are the results:*

US 7 Portugal 5
US 12 Canada 7
US 9 Belgium 9
US 11 Ireland 3
US 9 Japan 8

Compared to these five peer nations, the U.S. did well at the 2003 WOC.

The Brian May Effect

As I was adding up the scores it was clear that Brian May -- the top US runner -- made a huge difference. If you replaced Brian with someone else the results probably would have been very different. I can't say for sure what the results would have been. But, it seems likely that Portugal, Belgium and Japan would have scored better in the head-to-head comparisons. The U.S. might have gone from winning 4 of 5 to losing 3 of 5.

If Brian hadn't gone, the next spot on the team was Syd Reader. At the team trials, Syd was 8:23 slower than Brian on the middle distance race and 6:24 slower on the long distance day. That's quite a big difference.

Clearly one of the things the U.S. needs to do is make sure the best orienteer in the country goes to the WOC.

It is something the U.S. has struggled with in the last decade or so. Throughout the 1990s, Mikell Platt has been the best orienteer in the U.S. But, he didn't go to the WOC in 1991, 1995, 1997 or 1999. Mikell's absence probably had a big effect on how well the U.S. performed.

* I did this pretty quickly over my lunch hour. I haven't double checked, so there might be some mistakes. The scores include men and women, individual and relay races.

posted by Michael | 8:27 PM


Had to check; It was the famous US-orienteer, not the Queen- guitarist :-)
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