December 2, 2020

2020-21 IBU Biathlon World Cup season simulation

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Below is a table containing our projected results of the 2020-21 BMW IBU World Cup season. We arrived at these results by simulating all the races of the 2020-21 season 250 000 times, adding up the points and checking how often the different athletes finished in the various positions. Read more.

You can navigate to check the results for both women and men and also all the different disciplines. The results of our season simulations is based on the unlikely assumption that all the athletes will start every race.

Even if we are very bullish about the quality of our model, there are several weaknesses with applying this first edition of our biathlon model to predict season results.

For now we simulate all the races in the world cup, using the athlete’s results from the last few seasons. This implies that the quality level of the different athletes will have remained unchanged over the summer. As this exceedingly unlikely, it is not an ideal approach.

For simulating single races during the season, when we have some data from the current season to lean on, the above method should work just fine. However when we are simulating an entire season, before any races have been completed, it is far from perfect.

Before the start of the 2021-22 season we hope to have ready a new version of our model, which will start by simulating how much the various athletes have improved or deteriorated before we commence each of the 250 000 season simulation runs, that our projections are based on.

In the next version of our model we also plan to cater for the fact that the younger athletes are more likely to improve rather than deteriorate from one season to another, while the opposite is true for older athletes. As our current model does not take this into account, it is likely to overestimate the future performance of older athletes, while underestimating younger athletes like former junior world champions; Marketa Davidova and Kamilla Zuk.

The way the simulations work now, which assumes that all the athletes have skill sets similar to what they had the past few seasons, removes completely the variance created by the athletes’ developments over the summer. As our season simulations at the moment is disregarding this natural source of variance, we have adjusted by increasing the expected result variance substantially as it is the best simple fix we could come up with. An unwelcome side effect of this is that the top athletes are likely to earn less world cup points in our simulations than they are in real life.

As the season progresses and we have some results from the 2020-21 season to base our simulations on in addition to the recent seasons, the scale of this problem will decline and we can decrease the result variance towards the average historic levels.