Should Wipeouts Prevent Bettors From Taking Favorites in Alpine Skiing?

Should Wipeouts Prevent Bettors From Taking Favorites in Alpine Skiing? article feature image
Credit:

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Austrian skier Matthias Mayer wiped out in the slalom leg of the men’s Alpine combined downhill event at the Winter Olympics.

This is not an unusual occurrence in Olympic Alpine skiing. In fact, this winter sport has seen the greatest number of runs end in DNFs (did not finish) or DQs (disqualification), according to data pulled from Sports-Reference.com.

Research done by FiveThirtyEight.com has shown that nearly one in every three Alpine skiing attempts at the Olympics ends prematurely. That stands in stark contrast to one of the craziest sports on ice – the skeleton. Despite rocketing face-first down a mountain on a sled, 99.4% of riders finish each skeleton attempt.

Why should bettors care which sports have the most wipeouts? Increased variance caused by DNFs and DQs makes a sport more unpredictable, which should lead to value on underdogs. Does the data support this theory?

Using data from SportsOddsHistory, I looked at how favorites in five Alpine events (Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G, Combined and Downhill) performed in the 2014 and 2010 Winter Olympics. Then I compared those results to the favorites in the Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton – winter sports that have some of the lowest rates of mishaps. If our theory, increased DNFs lead to value on the underdogs, is correct, then favorites should perform worse in Alpine events and better in sports with less mayhem.

In 19 events (men and women), across two Olympics, the favorite in Alpine skiing has won just four times (21.1%). In the Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton, the favorite has taken gold in seven of 11 events with betting odds. The samples are small, but the results look promising. I can’t tell you who will win the Alpine events in PyeongChang, but I’m fairly confident it won’t be the favorites.

Alpine Schedule (odds via Bovada.lv)

Super G Women – Friday 9pm
Favorite: Lindsey Vonn (USA) +150

Giant Slalom Men – Saturday 8:15 pm
Favorite: Marcel Hirscher (AUT) -250

Downhill Women – Saturday 9pm
Favorite: Lindsey Vonn (USA) -125

Slalom Men – Wednesday February 22nd
Favorite: Marcel Hirscher (AUT) -225

Here is a complete list of Winter Olympic picks, odds and results for every event.

Photo via Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports