Friday, November 28, 2014

How FIS Points Are Calculated

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

We are constantly getting letters and e-mails asking how FIS points are calculated. They are one of the hardest things for racing fans to fully comprehend. Well, dear readers, you are in luck. Our very own Answer Man, who is really one of our intrepid researchers, can explain about how ski racers earn FIS points and how they are figured. The FIS formula is supposed to be so complex, nobody can decipher it. But our Answer Man has cracked the code and will tell all about how FIS points are really calculated. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: What are FIS points?
Answer Man: The short answer would be a skier's ranking in a discipline. Every ski racer is compared to the top athlete in a specific discipline and given points, which translates to a numerical ranking. The top ranked racer in a discipline has zero points and the others have a point score that corresponds with their ranking. The smaller the number, the higher the ranking.
BB: Wait a minute!  I thought that the top racer gets 100 points and not zero.
Answer Man: You are referring to World Cup race points. Those points are related to an athlete's finishing position in a World Cup race. FIS points are what you see in a race results list on the right hand side. Athletes get points in every race from the World Cup to smaller FIS races. The higher a racer finishes, the fewer FIS points he or she earns. There are two parts to calculating FIS points. The first is a direct comparison of a racer's time to the winner's.
BB: Please explain how this is done. 
Answer Man: The first part of the equation is called the race points. The FIS uses the formula P = [(F X Tx) : To] - F.  Tx is the racer's time in seconds, To is the winner's time in seconds and F is a special secret factor that differs for each type of race. For example, the F factors in 2010/11 were: slalom 610, giant slalom 870, super-combined 1130, Super-G 1060, and downhill 1330. The F numbers are changed every year. Let's say that Marcel Hirscher beats Ted Ligety in a giant slalom race by 0.1 seconds and Marcel's winning time was 1 minute and 43.47 seconds. Here is how we would calculate Ted's race points: [(870 X 103.57) : 103.47] - 870, which rounds off to 0.84. 
BB: Let's go back for a moment. How did the FIS get those numbers for the F factor in the different disciplines?
Answer Man: The FIS had a committee of 5 mathematics professors who came up with those numbers. Only they know the secret formula for generating them.
BB: Are you really expecting our readers to believe this?
Answer Man: Okay, here is what really happened. There truly was a committee of five members who were tasked to figure this out. They could not come to an agreement, so they went to the local toy store and bought the biggest Pin the Tail on the Donkey set they could find. Then they printed the numbers from 0 to 2000 on the donkey. When they finished that, the first guy was blindfolded, spun around, and had to pin his tail on the donkey. All five did that for each discipline. The five numbers where the pins landed were averaged and rounded up to the nearest 10.
BB: That is a lot more believable than a bunch of mathematicians inventing a super secret formula. 
Answer Man: The only other requirement was that each F number contains at least one digit that is a prime number. If the original rounded-up number did not contain a digit that was a prime number, then they used the next one that was a multiple of 10 until they got one.
BB: What is the deal with prime numbers?
Answer Man: Evidently someone at the FIS thought that having a prime digit would make their F numbers seem more sophisticated. It would also make ski racing appeal to those who are autistic. Many people on the autism spectrum are fascinated with prime numbers.
BB: I thought many autistic people were fascinated with actual prime numbers versus numbers that happen to contain a prime digit.
Answer Man: That was the best that the FIS could do under the circumstances.
BB: OK, I'll go along with that.  The first part is very straightforward. You calculate each race finisher's time compared to the winner's time using numbers with at least one prime digit that the FIS obtained by playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Answer Man: Correct! The second part is very complex. One of the biggest priorities at the FIS is having an aura of mystery that is designed to totally confuse the fans.
BB: I thought that safety and TV ratings were two of the FIS's biggest priorities.
Answer Man: Of course they are. But so is keeping the fans confused. The second part of the FIS point score is called race penalty points or RPP. RPP is figured by the following simple formula: |[(A + B - C) : 10] - (Ae + Lo) + N|. We take the absolute value of the answer in case it is a negative number.
BB: You will have to explain all of these things so that our readers will understand.
Answer Man: Of course. A is the FIS point total of the top 5 ranked athletes who started the race.
BB: Hold up there. How do you find out the FIS point total of the top 5 starters?
Answer Man: The FIS has a list of every racer along with his or her FIS points. We simply look on the list and add up the points.
BB: OK, carry on with the rest of the formula. 
Answer Man: B is the FIS point total of the 5 racers with the best FIS ranking who finished in the top 10 of the race. C is the race points of the 5 racers in B.
BB: How did they come up with using point totals of the top 5 ranked starters and best 5 out of 10 in a race? Was that also decided by a children's party game?
Answer Man: No. It was a college drinking game minus the alcohol. The same five people at the FIS who came up with the F numbers for race points each tried to bounce a 50 euro cent coin into a glass in the middle of a table. They were given 10 tries and averaged getting the coin into the glass 5 out of 10 times. That made them realize that the numbers 5 and 10 were special and set out to include them in the penalty points formula.  Those numbers are also easy to figure on an abacus. In fact, at races there are special  employees who sit with abacuses to calculate the racers' FIS points. They are much faster than a computer.
BB: How are the FIS previous point totals figured for A and B?
Answer Man: They take the FIS points from the best two races of the season and average them. That is the number used. If a racer wants to improve his ranking, he needs to have fewer points than his second best point total.
BB: This sounds very complex indeed. What are the rest of the numbers in the formula?
Answer Man: Ae is the number of animals that the top 5 ranked athletes in the race earned through winning races. For example, if someone wins a reindeer in Levi or a moose in Lake Louise, that gets included in the race penalty points calculation.
BB: Uh....Ski racers don't win a moose in Lake Louise. 
Answer Man: Well they should because it would help them to improve their ranking. Lo is the number of operations on any part of a ski racer's leg or foot that the athletes in B had.
BB: What if a racer had back surgery, shoulder surgery, or brain surgery? Shouldn't that also count?
Answer Man: Someone at the FIS decided that since you don't ski on your back, shoulder, or head, only leg and foot surgery counts. That could be changed if someone decides to ski the race course on his or her head or shoulder.
BB: What is N?
Answer Man: That is actually the sum of two numbers, which is only figured for the one racer whose points the FIS is calculating. The first is the absolute value of the number of letters in a ski racer's first name minus 5 or 10, whichever answer is smaller, added to the absolute value of the number of letters in a racer's surname minus 5 or 10, whichever answer is less. Tina Maze would have an N value of 2: She has 4 letters in her first name and four in her last. Four minus five is -1 and -1 + - 1 = -2.  The absolute value of -2 is 2. Marcel Hirscher would have an N value of 1: Six letters in Marcel minus 5  is one and 8 letters in Hirscher minus 10 is -2; one and -2 add up to -1, which has an absolute value of 1.   Carlo Janka would have a perfect N value of zero because both his first and last name contain 5 letters.
BB: Ah, the magic numbers of 5 and 10 again. 
Answer Man: That's right. You can see that those numbers are very special to the FIS. But this time the FIS committee didn't use any party games for the N value. They said if 5 and 10 worked  for getting the F factor for races and the A and B the penalty points formula, they would be ideal for the N value.
BB: I see. So in the interest of keeping it simple, a racer's FIS points for any given race are simply the race points plus the penalty points? 
Answer Man: Exactly! It is a combination of comparison to the race winner and others in the race using numbers obtained from pinning tails on a paper donkey, bouncing a coin into a glass, leg surgery, the number of letters in a racer's first and last name, and the number of animals that the athletes won in races. All of this is calculated with an abacus instead of a computer. You are very smart to understand this formula the first time hearing it.
BB:  Of course I am! The Blickbild hires its reporters for their intellect as well as their intrepidness. I'll need to buy an abacus so I can calculate points when I watch the races. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for this interview and for helping our readers to decipher how FIS points are tallied. I'm sure they can now do this at home with an abacus or even a slide rule.  And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

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