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.