Greater Medal Impact-World Rankings or World Championships?

Greater Medal Impact-World Rankings or World Championships?

By Katie Arnold//National Team High Performance Consultant  | Monday, October 26, 2015

One of the best things about the Olympic Games is the fact that anything is possible, and there are no guarantees. At this point we can’t accurately predict who will even qualify for Rio, let alone who will medal in any given event. However, we can look at historical data to try to identify common trends when it comes to who has medaled in the past. This week I have focused my attention on the men’s and women’s 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle events.

For every medalist in these events at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, I looked at the previous year’s (2003, 2007, and 2011) World Championships results and FINA World Rankings. The following is what I found based on this data:

  • 78.2% of all medalists were ranked top-10 in the world in the year before they won a medal.
  • 60% of all medalists were ranked top-10 AND competed in the final heat at World Championships in the year before they won a medal.
  • The strongest correlation between top-10 world rank and winning a medal was in the women’s 50 free and the men’s 200 free; 100% of medalists in these events were ranked top-10 the year before the Olympics.
  • The weakest correlation was in the women’s 200 free and the men’s 50 free; 55.6% and 44.4% of medalists (respectively) were ranked top-10 the year before the Olympics.
  • During this period only 5 individuals were able to win medals in the same event at consecutive Olympics:
  • Natalie Coughlin, 100 free, 2004 & 2008
  • Federica Pellegrini, 200 free, 2004 & 2008
  • Cesar Cielo, 50 free, 2008 & 2012
  • Park Taehwan, 200 free, 2008 & 2012
  • Michael Phelps, 200 free, 2004 & 2008

At this point the natural follow up question is “so what?” The above data supports the idea that in the year before an Olympic Games, World Ranking has more to do with winning a medal than an appearance in the final at World Championships. So for all of you out there who may be worried because you “missed out” on those finals this past summer, don’t fret… there is still hope!


 

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