Donnerstag, 7. November 2019

The China sequel IV: On the technical limit

Technical limit
fig.1. Florian Schneider on the technical limit (Kids O Week/SOW 2019).

Definition: The technical limit is the speed you can run without making mistakes and executing flawless. This limit is individual and depends on the type of terrain. It only comes to count if you would be able to run faster than navigate. Factors are talent and specific training. (fig.1.)

Novaggio 2018

fig.2. Example of a technical limit. Blue is the performance index of Matthias Kyburz at the Test race for EOC 2018 in Novaggio TI. Red is the re-run the same day.  What you can see here is, that Kyburz constantly runs 10% below his impressive running capacity, thereby performing technically close to perfect.Or.. uhm he might actually be running below his technical limit.

fig.3. Same day. Same plot for Fabian Hertner. His competition speed is closer to this running capacity with only a 5% gap, but his performance is less stable. So he definitively scratches on his limit.

fig.4. And here comes Joey Hadorn. He ran parts of the competition full speed, but performed less stable for the rest him too.
fig.5. And here comes Christoph Meier. Competition speed is 2.7% down from running capacity. Almost no mistakes.
fig.6. Thus here you see the running capacities of these four runners. In the final result. Kyburz gets 2., Meier 4th, Hadorn 11th, Hertner 12th. Meier made the best out of his "limited" running capacity.  Starting with a re-run disadvantage of +2.20 min. to Kyburz he get it down to +0.19 min. in the competition. He also passed Hadorn and Hertner turning re-run deficits of 45 and 27 seconds into a 20 seconds advantage in competition.

Now the Novaggio village was a pretty technical terrain with advanced demands on route choice, map-reading timing and proper execution. Let's switch to ...

WC 2019 in  Switzerland, Laufen

fig.7. World Cup Switzerland 2019. Sprint Laufen, Performance index.

The WC in Laufen can be described as less technical in regard of route choice, map-reading timing and proper execution. Thus many runners managed to perform according to their shear running capacity. Technically stable runners with lower running capacity could not get an advantage here. Hadorns offensive strategy did not pay out this time neither loosing 24 seconds on the second long leg. In the end Yannick Michiels won due to a bad route choice of the even faster Kris Jones, but in general we can conclude, that the limit in WC Sprint Laufen was of physical nature.

Songtang, World Cup Final 2019 in China.

fig.8. World Cup China 2019. Sprint Songtan, Performance Index.

The contrary here. The terrain was definitively limiting running speed of most of the runners. For example Yannick Michiels  speed dropped by 2.4km/h between Switzerland and China. He still managed to win, thus almost everybody must have "dropped" similarly. Not everybody though  to the same amount. Kyburz, peaking 7.5% ahead of Hallan Steiwer in Switzerland got back to even with him. Hadorns peak passed Michiels, Rauturier advanced relatively. The biggest relative step forward, although it technically was "the smallest step backwards" regarding speed took Li ZhuoYe. Not competitive regarding speed in Laufen, the technical terrain on his homeground made him even competitve-wise. Note that even his running speed dropped but rather insignificantly. He (as some other Chinese runners) relatively over-performed in the most technical parts and under-performed in the more physical parts towards the end of the course. His limit was thus mostly of physical nature, while all other struggled with a technical limit. Many competitors clashed with the fact, that they could run faster than they should, resulting in time losses due to wrong route choices, but also many problems with proper execution.

As a result the overall performance of the usual suspects resulted in unusual big lag from the winner to the superman-time but also to the estimated winning time of 13-14 minutes (Michiels 15.18 and +1.16 on superman).


  • Technical limits lead to a collective under-perfomance from the usual suspects.
  • Li ZhuoYe got his chance of a lifetime an made it. He is not to expect to succeed in faster and less technical Sprint neither in terrain he is not as technically adapted to. (But return to Guangdong and he might out-run you again).
  • All these athletes publicly claiming foul-play by ZhuoYe (and Hao), but also the IOF not supporting the Chinese Radio Sport and Orienteering association against these untenable claims, owe them a huge reparation for the damage made. Those high-handed claiming to stand for fairplay, should bear their responsibility and revoke their false claims as loud at they made them.
  • The sprint courses should be held open for re-runs after the competitions. 
  • Why couldn't I just shup up?
  • No anonymous comments.


Ivar Lundanes hat gesagt…

I don't really follow your logic about how this is facts that is going to change anything?

You show that the physical part is the limitation for Zhuoye, while the limitation is technical for everyone else. In my eyes, with this logic you show that Zhuoye either is the perfect technical sprint orienteer, complete superior to what previousely was known as the best sprint orienteers in the world, or he had an advantage of knowledge of the course and map which should only be possible by cheating. I know which one of those two options I see as most likely...

M.Lerjen hat gesagt…

@Ivar: It was on his home-ground and the speed of "the best sprint orienteer in the world" came almost down to his level. He got this minimal chance. He almost made it and got 3rd. Not very likely but possible.

I might be wrong. But my point is, that you might be too. You really want to yell around your claims base on "most likely"?

MKG hat gesagt…

Your data are interesting, but as Ivar, I don't get to the same conclusion as you.

If almost everywhere speed drops of something like 2km/h, that's huge; there is technical limitation but also speed limit due to the terrain.
In fact this very small speed drop of Zhuoye, is very suspicious to me. Except the technical challenge, I don't see how you can run as fast in very small, intricate street (sometimes less than 1m).

And about all this story, what is in fact the more strange is not the podium in the women and men category (2 super performances out of a squad might be possible), but that all the chinese team was super (too fast!) fast in all the 1st part of the race which was technical. Except Shuangyan Hao, none of the athletes as good references (also due to the fact that they live fare from europe, I agree), but all of them suddenly get impressive technical ability. The local factor can explain a bit of that, but if you like at other race, I don't have memory of so huge improvement of a all team (you also get some extra pressure).

And one last point, if those athletes are so big technical monster that they overpass all the champions, that means a gigantic amount of work and training. So I don't understand than they can't get better physically also. I mean, top orienteer shape is very good; but you could get much closer to their abilities with a decent training. Strange to be a so good technical monster but with so "poor speed" if you compare the time involved to progress on those aspects.

Ivar Lundanes hat gesagt…

I struggle to see how you mean this data proves that Zhuoye did not have any illegal advantage.

With this you prove that everyone slowed down quite a bit from Switzerland to China, except Zhuoye. If you look at the courses from those two races, you'll see that the course in China have about 33% more distinct changes of direction. And in general these changes of direction is stornger in China (more 90degrees corners) and the streets in China is also in general quite a bit narrower. Obviusely that should slow down everyone.

When you show that everyone except Zhuoye had to slow down it's a proof that he didnt had to read the map as much as the others. And why didnt he have to read the map as often as the others?
a) he is technical superior
b) he had knowledge of the course and terrain obtained in a unfair/illegal way.

You think your numbers proves answer A is correct, but your numbers proves only what happened. Not HOW it happened.

To just accept a extremely surprising result like this with the context of Chinese cheating at CISM (and other sports) is an insult to the other athletes and the work they have done over many years trying to reach the level required for real performances thay result in a international podium place.

In other words, it is absurd that you think these numbers prove that Zhuoye didnt have an illegal advantage and that everyone have comed up with false claims. You say people raising their voice should appologise. In my opinion, if anyone should ask for forgiveness it is you, cause you're calling a lot of the best orienteers in the world liars and you "prove it" with numbers that DOES NOT prove anything about HOW things have happened.

Bernt O Myrvold hat gesagt…

Thanks for a very thorough and intersting analysis.

Of course it is one problem that nobody has addressed so far. Statistics can´t prove or disprove anything in this case. Winning in sports is almost always an outlier. It is an extremely hard problem in statistics to decide which outlier shall be rejected and which shall be kept (one I struggle with often in work).
Your analysis clearly shows that the performance was well within what Zhouye is capable of. It is not an outlier that should be dismissed directly (as those who cry "foul play" wants).

The maps for the WC were available several months before the event (Bulletin 2). All the Chinese runners would have had plenty of time to prepare legally for this event which might well be their chance of a life time.

M.Lerjen hat gesagt…

@Ivar: I do not prove anything, of course. Because is not how it works. The accuser has to prove its accusations. You have to convince me. You have to tell me HOW things happened. You can not be concerned about fairness raising unsupported accusations.

stefan lombriser hat gesagt…

Wieso wird eigentlich mein Kommentar nicht veröffentlicht? :-)

Ivar Lundanes hat gesagt…

My comment is too big and have to be in several posts:

In most sport scandal the "regular man in the street"-accuser have no evidence. The spectators booing Lance Armstrong for years in Tour de France had no real evidence. All the people saying that Muhlegg was doping after his slaughtering in 2002 Olympics had no real evidence. Doping is of course a bit different because sometimes WADA get lucky and catch someone. In most scandals in sport there are no proofs before someone starts talking. And it will be the same here, no evidence will ever prove that the Chinese had illegal advantage. And the Zhuoye will probably never show that he's capable of a result like this again.

A lot of times in a lot of sports cheating is done and the athlete gets away with it. Also in orienteering. And also in China before. Look at this result from 2007 for example: Mo Jingxiong, apparently more known as "Black", took a surprise win in front of my brother. After the race he confessed that he had jumped a couple of forbidden fences, and the splits showed it clearly with him gaining like half a minute on a short leg. Still he did not get disqualified. That might tell us a little bit about the Chinese moral (and this guys moral that he accepted winning a WRE-event even though he cheated, either accidentally or intentionally) and it's interesting to see that that a guy with history of cheating also was involed in the course setting team at this World Cup round.

Then, as BOM writes:
"Your analysis clearly shows that the performance was well within what Zhouye is capable of. It is not an outlier that should be dismissed directly (as those who cry "foul play" wants)."
This is like saying: "Muhlegg only performed normally in Salt Lake, the real story is that everyone else slowed down because they couldn’t deal with the altitude. Muhleggs performance was within what he is capable of and it only shows he prepared properly"

Ivar Lundanes hat gesagt…

And then:
Do you really say my (and others) accusations are unsupported?

Just to remind you:
- China cheated massively at CISM.
- China have a history of big cheating in a lot of sports.
- ZhuoYe went from 93rd to 3rd in 4 weeks. From about 3 minutes behind superman with a almost clean race to about 1.20 behind.
- No Chinese have never been close to the level of the performance shown in the last sprint
- The Chinese have always been beaten clearly by better European Orienteers at WRE / PWT-races in China before
- The Chinese "just happened" to totally dominate the first part of the course, which according to SEA Blair Trewin had not been changed.
- The same SEA wrote on Nopesport that it's plausible that the Chinese had been training in the area before the race
- Apparently, one of the guys that Zhuoye passed said he barely looked at the map (as a single comment this is useless, but in the context with everything else about this result it counts)
- Comparison of Switzerland and China. Your numbers shows Zhuoye dropped average speed slightly, while everyone else dropped significantly. According to official measurement of course lengths, everyone else ran significant slower, while Zhuoye went faster (3:57 to 3:50 min/km). When you look at the differences in the two courses the course in China had about 33% more distinct directions of changes (about 50% more sharp corners), 50% more climbing, about 300% more “technical controls” and about 50% more tricky route choices. And the streets in China is a lot narrower. The course in China should slow you down a lot!
- As far as I can remember, no one else in the history of modern orienteering have had a performance leap like ZhuoYe on home ground races (Romania JWOC 1996 comes to mind, but that does not strengthen the theory thay nothing wrong have happened here..). Everyone knows orienteering is a sport where it’s really not that hard to cheat if you want to. There are no one “guarding” the embargoed terrain, and all it takes is for one organizer to share the map...

After reading these 10 things I come up with, are you still saying that it’s all unsupported?

Ivar Lundanes hat gesagt…

You ask me to tell you what happened?
I’ll tell you. The course in China should slow everyone down a lot compared with Switzerland. It slowed down all the best sprint orienteers in the world, but it didn’t slow down Zhuoye. This is because the other athletes had to slow down to read the map. Zhuoye didn’t have to slow down. Either it’s because he is technical superior to the best in the world OR it’s because he knew things about the course and terrain that they didn’t, because he had been in the terrain before and seen the course (probably not the final version).
Of those two there is one very logical answer and one very unlikely.

I understand that you want to believe that what Zhuoye is possible. I also think it's possible for an athlete to improve with the right terrain and the right preparations. But there are limits to the general level, and

When I argue with you and BOM I imagine that this is exactly like the way it must have been for those poor guys on a Norwegian cycling forumback in the early 2000s who had to argue with me wheter Lance Armstrong was doped or not. Back when I was a naive kid, 13-14 years old, and I thought the legend of LA was real, because why would anyone cheat in sport?? Look at CISM (cheating in several sports, not just orienteering!), look at the Sochi olympic scandal, look at corruption in IOC, FIFA etc, look at all footballers who intentionally dives and cheat to get advantage, look at Salazar and Nike Oregon Project, look at the ongoing investigations regarding Team Sky and former team doctor Freeman, look everywhere around in the world of sports.

Then tell me that we should always just believe everyting is great...