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  • Author: Rita M. Malcata x
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Rita M. Malcata, Tom J. Vandenbogaerde and Will G. Hopkins

There is a need for fair measures of country sport performance that include athletes who do not win medals.


To develop a measure of country performance based on athlete ranks in the sport of swimming.


Annual top-150 ranks in Olympic pool-swimming events were downloaded for 1990 through 2011. For each athlete of a given rank, a score representing the athlete’s performance potential was estimated as the proportion of athletes of that rank who ever achieved top rank. A country’s scores were calculated by summing its athletes’ scores over all 32 events. Reliability and convergent validity were assessed via year-to-year correlations and correlations with medal counts at major competitions. The method was also applied to ranks at the 2012 Olympics to evaluate countries’ swimming performance.


The performance score of an athlete of a given rank was closely approximated by 1/rank. This simpler score has 1 practical interpretation: An athlete ranked 7th (for example) has a chance of 1/7 of ever achieving top rank; for purposes of evaluating country performance, 7 such athletes are equivalent to 1 athlete of the top rank. Country scores obtained by summing 1/rank of the country’s athletes had high reliability and validity. This approach produced scores for 168 countries at the Olympics, whereas only 17 countries won medals.


The authors used the sport of swimming to develop a fair and inclusive measure representing a country’s performance potential. This measure should be suitable for assessing countries in any sports with world rankings or with athletes at major competitions.

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Gareth N. Sandford, Simon Pearson, Sian V. Allen, Rita M. Malcata, Andrew E. Kilding, Angus Ross and Paul B. Laursen

Purpose: To assess the longitudinal evolution of tactical behaviors used to medal in men’s 800-m Olympic Games (OG) or world-championship (WC) events in the recent competition era (2000–2016). Methods: Thirteen OG and WC events were characterized for 1st- and 2nd-lap splits using available footage from YouTube. Positive pacing strategies were defined as a faster 1st lap. Season’s best 800-m time and world ranking, reflective of an athlete’s “peak condition,” were obtained to determine relationships between adopted tactics and physical condition prior to the championships. Seven championship events provided coverage of all medalists to enable determination of average 100-m speed and sector pacing of medalists. Results: From 2011 onward, 800-m OG and WC medalists showed a faster 1st lap by 2.2 ± 1.1 s (mean, ±90% confidence limits; large difference, very likely), contrasting a possibly faster 2nd lap from 2000 to 2009 (0.5, ±0.4 s; moderate difference). A positive pacing strategy was related to a higher world ranking prior to the championships (r = .94, .84–.98; extremely large, most likely). After 2011, the fastest 100-m sector from 800-m OG and WC medalists was faster than before 2009 by 0.5, ±0.2 m/s (large difference, most likely). Conclusions: A secular change in tactical racing behavior appears evident in 800-m championships; since 2011, medalists have largely run faster 1st laps and have faster 100-m sector-speed requirements. This finding may be pertinent for training, tactical preparation, and talent identification of athletes preparing for 800-m running at OGs and WCs.