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Can someone explain this statistical anomaly in Men's Slalom?

DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 369 Crazy Baller
edited March 2019 in Technique & Theory
This will give you an idea about how my ever active mind works. I was sitting out in my hot tub the other day, downing a G&T and I asked myself, does slalom skiing favour right foot forward skiers over left foot forward or vice versa or is it pretty much even? It kind of makes sense to me that it might favour one over the other since the sport is all about how many balls you make it around and in the end, when the rope gets short, whether you turn best on your on-side vs off-side or other way around is either going to hurt you or help you in the middle of the course. I ski LFF and my off-side turn is my best. I figure I'd be at a disadvantage to someone who skis RFF and also turns best on his off-side because at every odd numbered ball I'd be one off-side turn behind the RFF skier and at every even ball I'd only be even in off-side turns. The way the courses are set up with No. 1 ball always on the right, the RFF skier will always be ahead or even in off-side turns and the LFF skier will always be behind or even in off-side turns. The LFF skier never gets to be ahead in off-side turns but the RFF skier does, every odd numbered ball. That's not really fair to LFF skiers if most skiers tend to turn better on their off-sides than their on-sides but I don't know if that's actually true or not.

You can, of course, argue there's an advantage for LFF skiers if most skiers tend to favour their on-side turns. But do they? What do the numbers say?

Then I wondered, of all the top ranked slalom skiers in the world, how many ski RFF vs LFF?

To investigate this I looked at these two pages for Men and Womens slalom rankings, respectively:

I went through the top 10 for each side and counted the number of RFF vs LFF skiers. For the remaining skiers listed on each page I just looked at pictures of the skiers for those skiers that had page links attached to their names. Here's what I found:

For Women

Top 10: RFF 4 LFF 6
For Remaining 5 that had links: RFF 3 LFF 1 N/A 1 (does tricks only)

So of 14 looked at: RFF 7 LFF 7

Dead even. I know it's not a large enough sample space to be statistically significant but it looks as though it's trending towards things being pretty even for RFF vs LFF.

Here's where it gets kind of interesting:


Top 10: RFF 8 LFF 2
Remaining 10 with links: RFF 8 LFF 2

So for 20 looked at: RFF 16 LFF 4 That's a 4:1 ratio. Also, all 6 of the top ranked 6 men listed on that page are RFF. You have to get all the way to #7 ranked to find a LFF.

Again, I know it's not a large enough sample space to be statistically significant but it looks as though there's enough of a trend there to cause one to wonder if maybe RFFs have an advantage over LFFs in Men's slalom skiing.

Is this just a coincidence or is this data actually telling us something? Why such a heavy preponderance of RFF top ranked skiers on the men's side vs women's side? Could there be anything to this?

Correct me if I'm wrong but the two current record holders in slalom are both RFF, correct? That, in and of itself doesn't mean anything but who have been the last 5 or 10 world record holders in Men's and Women's slalom? How many have been RFF and how many LFF forward?
I can take anything apart


  • mwfillmoremwfillmore Posts: 62 Baller
    Interesting, I wonder if there’s been a poll of ballers rff vs lff. @dhorton ?
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,494 Mega Baller
    So I feel LFF is maybe an advantage.

    My arguement is that regardless RFF or LFF both get to take 100% of gate turn ins. Unless you fall on the pull out.

    LFF gets 1 3 5 onside. 2 4 offside and 6 is just getting back to the exit gates.

    RFF gets gate then 2 and 4 inside but stands up for 6 and gets 1 3 5 offside.

    So in my opinion a LFF skier gets practice at the gates that overcomes lack of practice at 6 ball.
  • RednucleusRednucleus Posts: 541 Crazy Baller
    Don't most right handers also ski RFF? There are more right handers in the population than left handers so maybe that's where the higher RFF comes from. That being said, I am left handed and ski RFF - feel it gives me a gate advantage, and when I get a good gate & 1 ball, it makes all the difference.
  • DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 369 Crazy Baller
    edited March 2019
    @Rednucleus I'm right handed and ski LFF. I'm not sure if I'm in the majority or the minority for right-handers. I know that right handed people are the majority of the population and I also know that the majority of right-handed people shoot left in hockey but I don't know what percentage of right handed people would ski lff or rff. The people I ski with are all right-handers and it's about 50/50 who skis right foot forward or left foot forward. But the data I uncovered in the latest standings show a clear preponderance in favor of right foot forward but on the men's side only. On the women's side, it shows a pretty even split. Interestingly, most of the top 5 or 6 in women's are left foot forward but in mens, all six of the top six are right forward and eight of the top 10 are also right foot forward. Is there any kind of reason for that or is it just a coincidence?

    All I can say is that I think that a lot more study needs to be done here to analyze the data from waterski slalom results going back a lot of years to determine if there's any statistical evidence to suggest that one foot forward over the other is favored by the fact that the slalom course always starts with the first ball on the right. My guess is that's such a study would show that's the case for the reasons I explained in my original post but that's for someone doing a master's thesis in statistics to work out. I haven't got the time.
    I can take anything apart
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 489 Open or Level 9 Skier
    You need concrete statistics on how many LFF skiers there are vs RFF. Without doing this, it’s hard to get accurate data. Not to mention you’ll need to define what your criteria is for “favor.” For instance, by most measurements, the top 2 left foot skiers of all time(Parrish/Rodgers)would not be favored over the top 2 right foot forward skiers of all time(Mapple/Smith). But, if you took the average PB of all skiers across the globe, maybe the lefties would have a slightly higher average. It’s a great question but I don’t think we have enough data.
  • liquid dliquid d Posts: 1,301 Mega Baller
    If the course had bouys on both sides, it wouldn't make a difference.....or maybe , it would. It only takes 6 more bouys and rule change.
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 4,494 Mega Baller
    6 more bouys... but also a bunch of new lakes when your set up has a jump or a dock obscuring one of the new turn balls.

    I think if it were that huge of an advantage people would learn the other foot forwards and we just wouldnt give folks a choice.

    That sounds backwards but I could go either foot forwards when I was a kid only after breaking my leg did LFF become undoable.
  • DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 369 Crazy Baller
    edited March 2019
    @matthewbrown I totally agree with you that way more data needs to be examined in order to be able to arrive at any sort of supportable conclusion. The data I presented is just a small snapshot of the elite men's and women's rankings at a single point in time. You'd need to look at hundreds of times more data to get to where you'd need to be in order to draw any sort of conclusions.

    In my mind at least, I think I have raised a valid question that's worth being looked at further. The data is out there to look at, someone just needs to gather it and do the analyses. It might make a great thesis subject for someone doing a degree in statistical analysis or whatever. Just about every major sport now is getting heavy into statistical analyses so there must be quite a few people going for degrees in that field to fill those jobs.

    It all boils down to a couple very simple yet relevant questions: Does the sport bias towards RFF or LFF because the slalom courses are only ever set up one way and what is the magnitude of that bias if there is one? The logical follow-up question would be if the data does indicate a pronounced bias one way or the other, should anything be done to address it and level the playing field and what could be done to do that? Other questions that could arise if a bias is found are what are the reasons for that bias being there? That one would be a lot harder to find an answer for I think.

    My gut feeling (admittedly based on not much knowledge or expertise) is that there probably isn't a bias or at least not much of one at lower levels but there could be at the elite level where the rope lengths get really short and the precision level demanded by the level of difficulty is so fine that any little advantage that one group of competitors may have over another could have a measureable effect on outcomes over the long haul.

    The only way to answer those questions is to analyze many years worth of data and crunch the numbers.

    @BraceMaker That's impressive you could ski either way back when you were younger. I first tried going RFF but couldn't go more than a very short distance (like 50 feet) before doing a faceplant after dropping the ski. Switched to dropping the other ski and instantly went several hundred yards on my left foot trying to find that elusive RTP with my right foot. Night and day difference for me.
    I can take anything apart
  • SplasheyeSplasheye Posts: 61 Baller
    If you look at all the threads on this site over the years you will realize how important the gate turn in is. And we all know that six is just something you need to get around. So gates, 2 and 4 on one side. 1, 3 and 5 on the other. ..... sounds fair to me.
  • DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 369 Crazy Baller
    @Splasheye You very well could be right but was your conclusion drawn on any hard data or more just your gut feeling? Let me ask you this: Do you think the questions I've raised are valid or not? I'm not trying to say the sport does have a bias and I have no vested interest in there being one or not as I don't compete in it. I'm just curious and find the questions interesting to think about, that's all. I have no agenda here, I'm just asking questions for interest's sake.

    Here's another question: What if we looked at a list of the last, say, 15 or 20 or however many people who have either set or tied world records in both men's and women's slalom and what if we found that a sizeable majority of them were in one group. By "sizeable" I mean enough of an imbalance to statistically suggest a possible bias towards one group over another. Would that be enough to suggest further investigation may be warranted?
    I can take anything apart
  • SplasheyeSplasheye Posts: 61 Baller
    As someone who has run 28 off both LFF and RFF I think I am qualified to say screw statistics. Whatever feels natural for you go for it. I wouldn’t be biasing anyone at the beginning based on a statistical model for which is best. Theoretically interesting maybe but like you say needs someone with lots more time than we have.....
  • slowslow Posts: 425 Crazy Baller
    My so-called offside has certainly gotten better over the last 10 years and I believe alot of it is the improvement in slalom ski’s.
  • GarGar Posts: 317 Baller
    Fin adjustments and shapes too!
  • cruznskicruznski Posts: 125 Baller
    Being in a surf and skate capital of the world, here's some pertinent data on skateboarders- database of 6,047 who entered competitions:
    Hope that paste comes out okay.
    Way more skaters than ballers, but there is still a bias to goofy (RFF) in the pro ranks, even though they are slightly less in the general population.
    And even more for you all the term goofy foot comes from a 1937 Disney cartoon when Goofy was surfing. Maybe here in Santa Cruz.

    liquid d
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