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Heaviest skiers the fastest speed skiers?

Image by Rick Geary

Hey, Matt:

During the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Speed skiing is just another name for schussing. Knowing some physics, I commented that this sport was silly because (all other things being equal) the heaviest skier would win. This brought dissention. To prove my point, I wanted to chart the speeds vs. weight of the contestants, but I couldn’t find the weights. Since then, many people have told me that the height and weight of all Olympic athletes are taken. Is this true? If so, when did it start and are the numbers available?

— Calif

We shouldn’t take to heart the lyrics of the Jethro Tull song “Fat Man”: “roll us both down a mountain/I’m sure the fat man would win.” It isn’t strictly true. The fat man only wins in that situation if the ratio of his mass to his frontal area is greater than the thin man’s. You’re right that “all other things being equal,” the heaviest skier would win in speed skiing, but when in life is anything equal? You didn’t ask me to weigh in on your point about the legitimacy of competitive schussing (although, how fun is that to say?), so I won’t bother since I have no investment in this matter. As for the biological data on Olympic athletes, the IOC doesn’t have the records you would seek. They have recorded the ages of athletes going back to the 1896 Athens Games, although the record is spotty in the early years. Your best bet for heights and weights of speed skiers is going to be from the International Ski Federation (fis-ski.com). That’s the governing body for skiing in general and it will be more likely to have in-depth biological data on skiers, from which you could construct a chart to confirm or deny your suspicions about the heaviest skier winning.

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Image by Rick Geary

Hey, Matt:

During the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Speed skiing is just another name for schussing. Knowing some physics, I commented that this sport was silly because (all other things being equal) the heaviest skier would win. This brought dissention. To prove my point, I wanted to chart the speeds vs. weight of the contestants, but I couldn’t find the weights. Since then, many people have told me that the height and weight of all Olympic athletes are taken. Is this true? If so, when did it start and are the numbers available?

— Calif

We shouldn’t take to heart the lyrics of the Jethro Tull song “Fat Man”: “roll us both down a mountain/I’m sure the fat man would win.” It isn’t strictly true. The fat man only wins in that situation if the ratio of his mass to his frontal area is greater than the thin man’s. You’re right that “all other things being equal,” the heaviest skier would win in speed skiing, but when in life is anything equal? You didn’t ask me to weigh in on your point about the legitimacy of competitive schussing (although, how fun is that to say?), so I won’t bother since I have no investment in this matter. As for the biological data on Olympic athletes, the IOC doesn’t have the records you would seek. They have recorded the ages of athletes going back to the 1896 Athens Games, although the record is spotty in the early years. Your best bet for heights and weights of speed skiers is going to be from the International Ski Federation (fis-ski.com). That’s the governing body for skiing in general and it will be more likely to have in-depth biological data on skiers, from which you could construct a chart to confirm or deny your suspicions about the heaviest skier winning.

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Comments
2

It sounds like grounds for an experiment using students at Bandini Mountain.

May 12, 2013

No reason not to pick a bunch--of varying weights--and strap them into a set of roller skis for a fool-proof, Tull-approved acid test of the Alice Theory of Terminal Ski Velocity!

Perhaps a little inspiration from the following video?

May 12, 2013

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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