Heinrich, Amelie

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The impact of co-acting competitors on shooting performance in elite biathletes

2022-10-13, Heinrich, Amelie, Köhler, Hanna, Müller, Florian, Stoll, Oliver, Cañal-Bruland, Rouwen

Grounded in social facilitation theory, this study examined the impact of co-acting competitors (i.e., opponents) on elite biathletes’ shooting performance based on World Cup competition data. To this end, the impact of the number as well as the mean overlapping time with co-acting competitors at the shooting range on both shooting time and shooting accuracy was assessed. Competition data of World Cup races from 2005 to 2020 were analysed. This included 115 mass start and 195 pursuit events of a total of 758 elite biathletes amounting to 57.251 shooting bouts equivalent to a total of 286.255 shots. Data was analysed using a fixed effects model. Results revealed two main findings: First, the more co-acting opponents were present at the shooting range, the shorter (i.e., better) was shooting time. However, more co-acting opponents were also associated with decreased shooting accuracy in mass start, but not in pursuit. Second, a longer temporal overlap with co-acting opponents negatively affected biathletes’ shooting time. There was no effect on shooting accuracy. To conclude, the present study provides first evidence for a link between co-acting competitors and shooting performance in elite biathletes by analysing ecologically valid, real world data.

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Selection bias in social facilitation theory? : Audience effects on elite biathletes' performance are gender-specific

2021, Heinrich, Amelie, Müller, Florian, Stoll, Oliver, Cañal-Bruland, Rouwen

Social facilitation proves robust in conditioning tasks (e.g., running), yet in coordination tasks (e.g., rifle-shooting) some studies report performance deterioration. Recent Biathlon World Cup data offered the unique opportunity to test this task-specificity (conditioning = cross country skiing, coordination = rifle-shooting). Audience restrictions due to COVID-19 allowed to compare athletes' performance in the absence (2020) and presence (season 2018/2019) of an audience. Gender-specific regulations (e.g., course length) necessitated the inclusion of gender as additional factor. Results of 83 (sprint competition) and 34 (mass start competition) biathletes revealed that task-specific social facilitation is moderated by gender: In the presence of an audience male biathletes showed performance improvements in the conditioning task and performance deteriorations in the coordination task; female biathletes showed the reverse pattern. This gender dependency may have gone unnoticed in the past due to sample selection bias (<1/3 female), thereby questioning the generalizability of social facilitation theory.

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The impact of physiological fatigue and gaze behavior on shooting performance in expert biathletes

2020-09, Heinrich, Amelie, Hansen, Dan Witzner, Stoll, Oliver, Cañal-Bruland, Rouwen

Biathlon is a discipline that combines cross country skiing with rifle shooting. It demands high shooting accuracy and fast shooting times under increasing levels of physiological fatigue. Building on Vickers and Williams (2007), the current study aimed at scrutinizing the impact of physiological fatigue and gaze behavior on shooting performance in elite and sub-elite biathletes.

Ten members of the German national senior team (elite) and 13 members of the German national junior team (sub-elite) participated in a performance test. They conducted a roller skiing test on a treadmill including four increasing intensity levels followed by shooting blocks of five shots in both prone and standing position.

Physiological measurements consisted of heart rate and blood lactate, shooting performance data included shooting accuracy and time. Eye movements were assessed, i.e. the duration of the final fixation, using a gun-mounted eye tracking system.

Physiological fatigue systematically increased across intensity levels. There were no differences between elite and sub-elite biathletes in percentage shooting accuracy. However, elites needed shorter shooting times than sub-elites. Both groups showed increased range times with increased workload levels in prone and standing positions. Yet, there was no effect on shooting accuracy. Finally, analyses of a subset of data did not show any effect of final fixation duration on shooting accuracy.

Physiological fatigue seems to have no impact on shooting accuracy, but rather affects shooting times in expert biathletes. Furthermore, the duration of the final fixation does not seem to moderate shooting accuracy in elite biathletes.