Taking on the Big Guys

Australia in Mogul Skiing

Australia is not generally thought of as a country that would produce world class skiers. Yet, given our limited terrain and season, Australia is producing world class skiers and is coming into the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held at PyeongChang in South Korea with some strong medal prospects. Moguls is a judged sport, so it is worth giving Australians a real understanding of what the sport is, a look at the recent world cup, how moguls is judged and moguls in the Olympics.

Moguls as a sport has its origins in 'hotdogging' - freestyle skiing mixing acrobatics, jumps and the exhilaration of downhill skiing that took off in America in the 1960s. It represented the freedom of expression and social changes of the time, made possible by new advances in ski equipment.

Moguls debuted as a demonstration sport in Calgary Canada in 1988, becoming a full medal sport at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Moguls is not just a matter of completing a course without falling in the fastest time possible. The competition involves skiing at speed down a steep 200m plus slope covered with evenly spaced bumps known as moguls and successfully completing two different jumps placed in the course.
The competitor is judged both on style and speed with the score breakdown being:

Turns - 60%

Speed - 20%

Air - 20%

The 2016/17 World Cup Freestyle Moguls

To be eligible to ski in the Olympics, skiers have to have placed in the top 30 in a FIS World Cup Moguls event and have a minimum number of FIS points (points allocated for performance by the International Ski Federation) To see where the major competition in the PyeongChang will come from, shown below is a coverage of the 2016/17 world cup. It displays the top 3 competitors in each race along with their score breakdown and the type of aerials completed. The strengths of each competitor are reflected in their time, air and turn scores. An examination of the scores also shows that the performing the most complex aerials is not always the path to victory.
Source: The Male and Female score data is compiled from the FIS world cup results spreadsheets.

Battery Run | Finland | 10/12/2016

Wilderness | USA | 13/1/2017

Aerials in Moguls

In moguls, there are a number of different aerial manoeuvres that can be performed. Every athlete has to do two aerial manoeuvres during the race - one in the top section of the course and one near the bottom. These jumps count for 20% of the total score. Each of these aerials manoeuvres is assigned a specific code and degree of difficulty. These are shown below. Judges use these codes to adjust their raw aerial scores to take the manoeuvres degree of difficulty into account.

Mens Degree of difficulty Jump Code Chart

Ladies Degree of difficulty Jump Code Chart

An interesting observation from this information is that the order of how difficult tricks are differs for men and women, suggesting some tricks are easier/harder for each gender. Another insight is that the degree of difficulty for women is significantly higher than the mens for most manoeuvres - up to a 0.1 increase on average.
Source: The data was sourced from the FIS Judging manual and then compiled into a dataset which was then placed in R to calculate a Colour range which assigned a specific hex code to each code based on how difficult it was.

Alex Bilodeau | Canada | 21/1/2017

Calgary Moguls Course | Canada | 28/1/2017

Aerial combinations

Many people do not know it, but Moguls athletes are limited in the combination of aerial manoeuvres that can be completed in one run. In order to show versatility, athletes are required to complete manoeuvres from two different categories. If they do not, neither jump will be counted. There are exceptions to this rule however, with the general consensus being that an athlete cannot perform two aerials of the same style and category. The combinations that can be performed are shown below.

Aerial Combinations Matrix

Champion | USA | 2/2/2017

PyeongChang Phoenix Moguls | Canada | 11/2/2017

Scoring On/Off Axis Rotations

As there are many different types of aerial manoeuvres at different rotations, judges are also required to score the jump based on the axis on which it is performed. Generally if an athletes takeoff is incorrect, the axis of the jump is also affected. Point deductions differ depending on whether the competitor is doing a straight on axis jump or an off axis manoeuvre (e.g Loop). The chart below shows the deductions given for each of these.

Source: This information was pulled from the FIS Judging manual and compiled into a On axis and off-axis dataset. A pie chart was used as it could show the 360 degrees of rotation that an aerial manoeuvre could be in.

Kuromoriyama | Japan | 18/2/2017

Thaiwoo Moguls | China | 25/2/2017

The importance of Turns

In Moguls skiing the way and athlete progresses through the turns section is the most important, being worth 60% of the total score. Skiers are judged on their form in terms of whether their knees are together and their upper body is still as they absorb the moguls in a sort of backwards bicycle motion. There are many ways to lose points in this section with deduction ranges to cater for the varying severity of the mistakes.

Turn Deduction Ranges

Fall-Line Deductions

This graph shows the various ways points can be lost, with the minimum amount that will definitely be lost when committing that mistake shown in the deep red. The range of additional points that can be lost is shown in a light pink. Out of an athletes maximum 10 pt score for the turns section, it is clear to see how easily they can lose nearly all of their point by making multiple mistakes. Deductions can add up leaving some athletes with a low minimum score of 0.1.

Any moguls competition course consists of a number of lines any one of which the competitor can choose to ski. Points are lost if a competitor deviates from their chosen line. This illustration above shows how these "fall line deductions" can add up over the course of one run. Each time an athlete goes out of their original line they are deducted 0.5 pts. However if they return straight away they avoid multiple deductions. This illustration also shows how if an athlete were to ski outside the flags, they would be immediately disqualified. Moguls as a sport is all about control and these deductions and rules reflect that

Visera | Spain | 8/3/2017

Overall 2016/2017 World Cup Winners

Australia is generally seen as an underdog in the winter olympics, however our recent World Cup results show that Australia has the strongest medal prospects in PyeongChang that it has ever had since Canadian born, Dale Begg Smith won Gold for Australia in 2006 and silver in 2010

Olympic Medal Winners

The interactive visualisation below lets you dig into previous Olympic results and show how different countries have performed. The Medals are placed at each athletes birthplace and can be filtered based on gender, olympic year and medal type. When tallied the medals move from the athletes birthplace to the country they represented. When each medal is clicked they show details about the athlete and once tallied you can hover over each country to see the number of Olympic wins and which athletes are responsible for those wins.

Source: The results of the olympics were gathered from the Olympics Official Records and then Each athlete was researched to find their birthplace. the co-ordinates of these were discovered through the use of google maps and compiled into one dataset. They were then placed on the custom map using leaflet and the locations of the countries represented were gathered using the world.geojson file. The map was then created using D3 and javascript to show additional information pulled from the dataset.

What is really interesting about these results is the number of athletes not born in the country that they represent with the us containing athletes born as far away as Korea. This also highlights an interesting fact about Australia in that no Australian-born athlete has ever one a medal in this sport, as well as no female representing Australia. The sole athlete to win medals for Australia is Canadian born Dale Begg Smith who moved to represent Australia in Moguls after the Canada refused to let him work on his company and train simultaneously. This further emphasises why the next Olympics is so important for Australia as we are heading into the 2018 Olympics with 22 year old Brittany Cox currently ranked World number 1 and well on her way to win the first female medal in moguls in Australia's history and with 22 year old Matt Graham who is currently ranked world number 3 with heavy medal prospects.

With both Britt and Matt being born in Australia, it may be time for Australia to prove that we don't just have swimmers and cricketers, but that we can ski and that we can beat the big guys up North at their own game.

DISCLAIMER: This article has been prepared in response to the design brief only and has nothing to do with the actual New York Times.

Created and Written By: Genevieve Martin