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Why are men racers faster than women? And factors influencing speed

post #1 of 101
Thread Starter 

While watching the world cup downhill in Switzerland last week on TV, I noticed that both the men's and women's races were held on the same course, but the men's times were about 5 sec faster than the women's (men 1:27.50 to 1:31.98, women 1:22.94 to 1:25.07).  Although I'm sure if you consider racers at all levels, there are lots of women who can beat lots of men, at the top level the men seem to be consistently faster.  Why is this?  I thought of several possible reasons:

 

1)  The men are more skilled skiers? (unlikely?  since they're all in the world cup, so they're all really good)

2)  The men are heavier, so gravity pulls them down faster?

3)  The men are stronger, so they are able to hold a tighter line in the turns, keeping closer to the fall line and reducing the distance covered?

 

I'm guessing 3 is the dominant factor?  (It would be interesting to see an aerial view of the course with the paths of the various skiers superimposed on it.)

 

Are there other factors I haven't thought of?

 

post #2 of 101

Well #2 makes no sense.  You can look that up in any physics text book.  But being heavier may mean they can carry more momentum over the flats.

 

3) is definatly an issue, tighter line, and stronger starts.

 

I think a key one you miss thou is physical size.  Men tend to have longer legs which helps, as longer legs, mean greater ability to flex and extend to manage pressure.

 

I think the other factor, particulariy for speed events like DH, is testorone.  If you ever done a WC DH you know how nuts those course really are....takes a certain degree of balls to ski them right on the edge....I think men tend to ski just a little closer to that edge....although this is just a theory, but to me there is Attacking, and then there is Attacking.

post #3 of 101

Are there any short male WC skiers who consistently do well? 

post #4 of 101

I think dominant factor is number 2.  The ratio of gravity to other forces is greater for heavier skiers.  The amount of energy available is greater for heavier skiers. You have to read those physics books past the 1st order theory.  I have.

 

post #5 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

Are there any short male WC skiers who consistently do well? 



Daron Ralves was one.

post #6 of 101

And Daron weighed about 180 lbs.  Compare that to Lindsey Vonn's 160 lbs.  Advantage - Daron.

post #7 of 101

Men also usually ski on longer skis (except Lindsay) which gives a slightly faster time, but I'm not sure how much faster

post #8 of 101

Do you think Lindsey Vonn weighs 160? I would guess less.

post #9 of 101

It's about power. Gravity helps a bit, but you have guys weighting much less then some of girls on tour, and they are still far infront (even infront of heavier guys ;)). Men just have more power then women, and it shows on skiing too. Another thing is way of thinking, which shows pretty much everywhere from SL to DH. If you just look DH in bad visibility conditions. Women mostly ski on part of course marked with blue color, while men don't go there if there's slightest chance to avoid color.... not to mention coaches on men races slip down the course right after new layer of color is sprayed on course and try to get as much of color off the snow, which is almost never case on women races. So basically you can say men are more crazy then women and they take more risk biggrin.gif

 

post #10 of 101

Benjamin Reich and Darren Ralves. Back in the day, Carl Schranz.

Huge amounts of Testosterone is an insurmountable advantage, skill being equal, (which it is.) If a woman takes the maximum amount of Testosterone, she will have less than 10% of the typical male level.

At the junior level, that is not always true, (that boys are faster)

post #11 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

I think dominant factor is number 2.  The ratio of gravity to other forces is greater for heavier skiers.  The amount of energy available is greater for heavier skiers. You have to read those physics books past the 1st order theory.  I have.

 


+1.  Holds true for bobsleds, Pinewood Derby, and soapbox racing as well.  I've heard tale of many young racers wearing weighted belts to run faster these days.

 

Strength is also a factor, but closely related to weight.

 

post #12 of 101

I agree about the risk... if you just watch a few Bode Miller interviews at WC events, you're bound to hear something about "taking risk" in places that will give you a faster time.  There obviously must be an "easy" way down the DH courses (that is slower), because the universal sports cameramen ski down holding a camera and never catch air.

 

Anyway, about short racers... I'm not sure if you'd call him "good," but Andrew Weibrecht (the 2010 SG Bronze medalist) is only listed at 5'6" (and to be listed at 5'6", you'd probably have to be pretty short).  Didier Cuche is listed at 5'8", but the dude is a pretty heavy 200 lbs at that height.

 

It's not DH, but the Universal Sports announcers were saying that french guy Alexis (who broke out with podium in GS) is pretty small.

 

 

Somewhere I heard size helps in speed events, but not necessarily in technical events.  I like to think this is true for smaller racers (I'm a short guy), but I think size definitely does help.  Svindal and Bode are pretty large.

 

Maybe overall its like professional golf (terrible apples to apples comparison I know)... there are SOME small guys (like Mike Weir) who can compete, but your average tour player is 6 foot plus... most good ones are really 6'2" plus.

 

post #13 of 101

To clear things up: the DH course in Lenzerheide was not exactly the same for men and women: the top third of the women's course had more offset in the big turns, which meant the women were running a longer course than the men by many meters, which translates to seconds if both courses were run by the same skier under identical conditions.  You could see the difference in "blue lines" during the broadcast of the women's race, especially on the monster right-hand turn after a traverse: the men's course had a turn apex that was much tighter, around 3-4 meters inside of the women's line.  The lower portion of both courses was, for the most part, identical.

 

That said....
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

Are there any short male WC skiers who consistently do well? 

 

Not just Rahlves in the shorter-stature game: Didier Cuche isn't a tower, yet he's very, very fast and extremely strong.  Andrew Weibrecht is small.  Kristian Ghedina was small but amazingly fast on both gliding and technical DH courses.
 

 

post #14 of 101

I think Killy weighed 165 when he won the DH at the Grenoble Olymics. Different sport back then I guess.

post #15 of 101

Course prep and "issues" were not even issues back then.  Revert to the scenes in "Downhill Racer" and you can see the workers side stepping the course for prep.

 

I can remember them calling out the Austrian Army for prep.  Not kidding.

post #16 of 101

World Cup Downhill - Men's & Women's Course Analysis - SUI - Lezerheide FIS Alpine World Cup Finals March 2011

Even though the downhill races were held on the same trail (Silvano Beltrametti at Lenzerheide) for both the men and women, the actual courses were different in the following aspects

*  Gates:  35 gates (men) vs. 36 gates (women)

*  Length:  2300 m length (men) vs. 2320 m (women)

*  Start Time:  9:30 am start (men) vs. 11:30 am start (women)

*  Course Setter:  Helmuth Schmalzl (FIS Men's Race Director World Cup Men Speed Events and former Italian men's head coach http://www.fisalpine.com/official.html?id=10) vs. Jan Tischhauser (FIS Women's Race Director World Cup Ladies Speed Events and former world cup coach for United States, Australia, France, and Switzerland  http://www.fisalpine.com/official.html?id=9)

which also accounted for the faster men's times (82-85 seconds) compared to women's times (87-91 seconds) in addition to some of the other factors mentioned in this thread.


Looking at Performance Analysis 1 section (Results, Analysis, Standings pdf at
Men  http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=62359  
Women  http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=62358)

the men's average speed ranged from 99.83 km/h (winner Adrien Theaux) to 97.33 km/h (slowest Ted Ligety) vs.

the women's average speed ranged from 95.45 km/h (winner Julia Mancuso) to 90.80 km/h (slowest Aurelie Revillet)



http://www.alpineraceconsulting.com/blog/2011/3/15/cuche-rants-on-jumps.html

..."Lenzerheide is in a beautiful valley above Chur in south eastern Switzerland; not far from Davos and St. Moritz. It is a vast valley with skiing on both faces above the valley floor and lifts up and down the valley from Churwalden to Lenzerheide and beyond.

The downhill is short and steep and turny and can cause problems for a lot of the bigger downhillers."

http://www.alpineraceconsulting.com/blog/2011/3/16/cuche-the-champ.html

..."Pista Silvano Beltrametti.  Silvano is a former Swiss Ski Team rising star that was paralyzed in a crash in 2001 in Val d’Isere. He was 22 when he crashed 9 seasons ago. The track in Lenzerheide was named after Silvano when it was built for the finals in 2005. Silvano attends the race in Lenzerheide every year and sits in his wheelchair in his place of honor in the finish area."



http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=62359  (Official Results section of Results, Analysis, Standings pdf)

Lenzerheide (SUI)
9th MEN’S DOWNHILL WED 16 MAR 2011
OFFICIAL RESULTS Start Time: 9:30
Jury
TD FIS H.-P. WUCHERER GER
Referee G. HUJARA FIS
Assistant Referee H. SCHMALZL FIS
Chief of Race T. JAEGER SUI
Technical Data
Course Name Silvano Beltrametti
Start Altitude 2257 m
Finish Altitude 1530 m
Vertical Drop 727 m
Course Length 2300 m
Homologation Number 9243/10/09
Race Information
Course Setter H. SCHMALZL FIS
Number of Gates 35
Start Time 9:30

Forerunners A - G. SGIER SUI
B - S. CADUFF SUI
C - D. BERGAMIN SUI
D - R. VALSECCHI SUI
Weather: Cloudy Snow: Hard Temperature − Start: 3 °C Finish: 5 °C F−factor: 1330


http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=AL&raceid=62358  (Official Results section of Results, Analysis, Standings pdf)

Lenzerheide (SUI)
8th LADIES’ DOWNHILL WED 16 MAR 2011
OFFICIAL RESULTS Start Time: 11:30
Jury
TD FIS L. CONCI ITA
Referee A. SKAARDAL FIS
Assistant Referee J. TISCHHAUSER FIS
Chief of Race U. HARTMANN SUI
Technical Data
Course Name Silvano Beltrametti
Start Altitude 2257 m
Finish Altitude 1530 m
Vertical Drop 727 m
Course Length 2320 m
Homologation Number 9243/10/09
Race Information
Course Setter J. TISCHHAUSER FIS
Number of Gates 36
Start Time 11:30

Forerunners A - G.-L. BARANDUN SUI
B - A. GRÜNENFELDER SUI
C − G. CASUTT SUI
D − F. SCHMED SUI
Weather: Cloudy Snow: Hard Temperature − Start: 0 °C Finish: 6 °C F−factor: 1330


Edited by SkierScott - 3/22/11 at 1:33pm
post #17 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

Are there any short male WC skiers who consistently do well? 


Not a DH'er, but Marcel Hischer is 5'8" and 155lbs.
 

 

post #18 of 101

With all of this said, it has been mostly DH comments.  You have to wonder about a head to head men/women in SL where fleet of foot counts for something, medium pitch?  smile.gif

post #19 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuki View Post

With all of this said, it has been mostly DH comments.  You have to wonder about a head to head men/women in SL where fleet of foot counts for something, medium pitch?  smile.gif



A skiers' "Battle of the Sexes" like they did in tennis back in the 70s would be awesome!

4583243590_5261ab5b38_z.jpg

post #20 of 101

I was thinking more Rene Richards.

 

One day I came home to find a cigar smoking, person with a 5 O'Clock shadow wearing a plaid outfit with matching beret sitting in my living room.  eek.gif  Yeah, it was one of the first trans types who was all in a tizzy that Rene Richards was getting all the attention.  It was my landords nephew turned niece.  We had coffee and stuff, kind of an interesting fellow, I guess right.

post #21 of 101

Looks like most of the DH guys are taller than average. Maybe something about leverage... 

 

Just out of curiousity, any physicists here? If so, can you explain how mass could affect one's speed? From what I understand, two objects of different mass will fall at the same speed, so long as there's equal friction or resistance. 

post #22 of 101

Quite simply, air resistance varies as the velocity squared, and is the greatest resisting force at high speeds, but the driving force depends on the mass.  More mass = more driving force without adding to the air resistance.

post #23 of 101

Darren did better on the more technical DH courses, steeper and gnarlier, turnier.

post #24 of 101

This is why 

muscle_man.jpg

post #25 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

Quite simply, air resistance varies as the velocity squared, and is the greatest resisting force at high speeds, but the driving force depends on the mass.  More mass = more driving force without adding to the air resistance.



I understood all of that except "driving force". What is this? (wikipedia provided nothing but steering wheel info...)

 

post #26 of 101

Driving force is the force pushing or pulling you forward along the slope, as opposed to the resisting forces of friction (drag force of the air friction and friction acting between the ski and the snow). 

post #27 of 101

 

Which begs the question a bit: why don't racers wear diving belts?

post #28 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by comprex View Post

 

Which begs the question a bit: why don't racers wear diving belts?


Plenty of younger racers are wearing weighted belts  But most don't brag about it..

 

post #29 of 101

Ghost has NFI.

 

The wind reistance between a person at 5'7, and 150lbs, vs 6'0 and 200lbs is not substantial.  As written in my first post the only advantage weight provides is extra momentum to carry you across the flats.

 

Force = Mass X Accleration

 

For skiers, accleration is equal to gravity.  Hence, yes, a heavier skier has more "force" behind" him to get going...BUT the accleration is the same.  Hence he wont be going faster.

 

As for weigth vs. other forces, that is bunk too.  Turning momentum etc is a function of our mass, so it cant be independent.

 

As for height creating more leverage...no, how much leverage do you need to tip a 65mm wide ski?...Height provides a greater range of movment to manage the virtual bump, terrain undulations etc.  If you think about Baja 500 desert racing, suspension travel is a huge determinant in how well a vehicle can perform.  Same with ski racing.

 

Sure some great short skiers are out there, but their lack of height puts them at a disadvantage to the taller guys. Just as an example if a guy has say legs 3inches longer then his competitor, that might mean for example he can "touch down" off a jump say 8 inches sooner, that means he can ski a line 8 inches higher and enjoy the ongoing benefits of that higher line...in WC that all adds up to enough to matter.


Edited by Skidude72 - 3/23/11 at 5:35pm
post #30 of 101



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by comprex View Post

 

Which begs the question a bit: why don't racers wear diving belts?


Quote:

Originally Posted by crgildart View Post




Plenty of younger racers are wearing weighted belts  But most don't brag about it..

 


When I first started ski racing as a kid the hill we used started off real steep, then finished with this massive long flat section...basically 1/3 steep, 2/3 flat.  I wore weights.  When the race hill was moved to a more constant pitch, I no longer needed the weights as momentum mattered substantially less...plus I was probably a slightly better skier then too, so was able to glide better.
 

 


Edited by Skidude72 - 3/23/11 at 5:38pm
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