The influence of tactical positioning on performance in sprint cross-country skiing
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of tactical positioning on performance in the heats of sprint cross-country (XC) skiing among men and women and the consistency of overtaking events over repeated competitions on the same racecourse. Thirty male and thirty female elite to world-class level skiers within each competition [(sprint International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) points: 40 ± 21 vs. 35 ± 24)] performed two repeated world-cup competitions at four different venues (two in the classical and two in the skating style) between 2017 and 2020. The intermediate rankings at five checkpoints were analysed using television broadcasts of the competitions. Sprint time-trial (STT) rank correlated positively with the final rank for the seven men’s (ρ = .54-.82, P < .01) and the eight women’s (ρ = .40-.80, P < .05) competitions, while one of the classical competitions for males did not correlate significantly (P = .23). The strength of the correlation coefficients between intermediate ranks and final ranks during the heats increased gradually from the first to the last checkpoint among both sexes in the classical style (τ = ~0.26 to ~0.70) and in the skating style (τ = ~0.22 to ~0.82), in which the majority of performance-variance was decided before the start of the finish sprint. For both sexes, ~20 and 16 overtaking events were observed in each heat for the classical and skating style, respectively. There was a significant sex-difference in the number of overtaking events in one out of the 16 competitions (P < .01), but no differences across seasons for any competition (P = .051–796). Overall, this study showed the importance of tactical positioning for performance in sprint XC skiing, with the number of overtaking events being relatively consistent for competitions performed on the same racecourse.