Race factors affecting performance times in elite long-track speed skating

D.A. Noordhof, R.C.M. Mulder, Jos de Koning, W.G. Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Analysis of sport performance can provide effects of environmental and other venue-specific factors in addition to estimates of within-athlete variability between competitions, which determines smallest worthwhile effects. Purpose: To analyze elite long-track speed-skating events. Methods: Log-transformed performance times were analyzed with a mixed linear model that estimated percentage mean effects for altitude, barometric pressure, type of rink, and competition importance. In addition, coefficients of variation representing residual venue-related differences and within-athlete variability between races within clusters spanning 8 d were determined. Effects and variability were assessed with magnitude-based inference. Results: A 1000-m increase in altitude resulted in very large mean performance improvements of 2.8% in juniors and 2.1% in seniors. An increase in barometric pressure of 100 hPa resulted in a moderate reduction in performance of 1.1% for juniors but an unclear effect for seniors. Only juniors competed at open rinks, resulting in a very large reduction in performance of 3.4%. Juniors and seniors showed small performance improvements (0.4% and 0.3%) at the more important competitions. After accounting for these effects, residual venue-related variability was still moderate to large. The within-athlete within-cluster race-to-race variability was 0.3-1.3%, with a small difference in variability between male (0.8%) and female juniors (1.0%) and no difference between male and female seniors (both 0.6%). Conclusion: The variability in performance times of skaters is similar to that of athletes in other sports in which air or water resistance limits speed. A performance enhancement of 0.1-0.4% by top-10 athletes is necessary to increase medal-winning chances by 10%.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-542
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Issue number4
Early online date21 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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