It’s all about time in Speed Skating. Curiously enough, not much scientific research has been done comparing the finishing times of junior Skaters in talent development. Dr. Inge Stoter obtained her PhD at the University of Groningen in March of this year, doing exactly that. Last week she won the Boymans Prize on the Day of Sports Research in Eindhoven. The ISU is proud to have contributed to the research, which also led to the development of two practical tools for Speed Skating coaches.
“My PhD thesis is about performance development in Speed Skating,” Dr. Stoter explains. “The main question is: which talents will make it to the top?” In order to find out, Dr. Stoter researched several different aspects such as technique, psychological capacities and tactics.
“Looking at all the various indicators for potential success, I thought: we keep forgetting to look at the times,” Stoter says. She set out to do longitudinal research comparing 1500m finishing times of junior Speed Skaters aged 13-19 years on their way to the top level.
Because Speed Skating times improve every season, Dr. Stoter had to find a proper way to compare junior performances over the years. She decided to look at the times as a percentage of the world record.
Dr. Stoter explains: “The world record in the 1500m has improved by about 10 seconds in thirty years. To compare performance over several decades, we have to compare the 1500m time as percentage of the world record valid on the day of the race.”
Making this comparison for 13 to 19-year-olds helps to select junior Speed Skaters with the potential to reach the top. She drafted a table of the development of all talents who have skated within 110 percent of the world record over the past 20 years, which indicates at what percentage a junior Skater has to skate at a particular age.
On the website dedicated to Dr. Stoter’s thesis, ‘Staying on track’ (https://www.stayingontrack.nl/), coaches can find the ‘performance tracker’ to make comparisons for their own Skaters.
Especially in the 1500m, the finishing time is just one of the indicators for potential talent. Dr. Stoter went on the research lap-times withing the races and pacing strategies, which appeared to be very important too.
“Pacing is the distribution of energy over a race,” Dr. Stoter explains. “The juniors have a relatively fast start, but a slower middle section compared to adult Skaters, but we learned that faster juniors have a better pacing then the less performing juniors. A good pacing strategy at a young age appeared to be a good indicator for the performance level as a senior skater.”
Dr. Stoter built a similar tool to the ‘performance tracker’ called the ‘pacing profiler’ for coaches to compare the development of their own Skaters to that of the best hundred male Dutch top junior Skaters.
Having won the Boymans prize for sports research has encouraged Dr. Stoter to continue her research as manager of the Innovation Lab Thialf. She now also aims at performance tools for other distances in Speed Skating.
Thialf Innovation Lab is the scientific support for the Thialf Academy, which is the ISU Center of Excellence in Heerenveen for the Speed Skating Branch (Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating). They do all the testing and monitoring of the Skaters who join the Thialf Academy.
The Thialf Academy also provides the experts with coach seminars during for example the Road to Ice weeks and the expert meetings for coaches organized by the ISU (https://youtu.be/7i7FHF0uOf4), but also online with ISU Thialf Center of Excellence webinars.
Links to webinars:
Webinar Performance development based on Inge Stoter’s thesis:
part 1: https://youtu.be/_lb91Xv1Ono
part 2: https://youtu.be/iLFUHR91fkk
Webinar on Data and training by ISU Thialf Center of Excellence: (https://www.isu.org/isu-news/news/146-development-news/13304-isu-speed-skating-center-of-excellence-webinar-on-data-and-training?templateParam=15)