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PROTRACK » Coaching & Training » USA T&F Team 36% better in 2012 OG than 2011 WC due to closer trials

USA T&F Team 36% better in 2012 OG than 2011 WC due to closer trials

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Interesting statistical analysis conducted to demonstrate how important it is to have the trials as close to the Games as possible. This was patently evident in the Australian results whioch proved the folly of having Olympic trials five months before the Games.

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OG 2012 Track & Field: U.S. Olympic track team “bats” .364 in London, up 105 points over 2011 World Championships!

by Rich Perelman
August 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2012 – There’s no doubt that the 2012 U.S. Olympic track & field team fared better than the 2011 U.S. World Championships team, but there is the question of why?

On the medal table, the American tracksters won 29 in London compared to 25 in Daegu in 2011, and can be explained in part by the fact that 36.4% of the team performed better at the Games than at the U.S. Olympic Trials. In baseball parlance, we’d say the U.S. hit .364 in London, against the Trials marks . . . a whopping 105 points better than the quite-ordinary .259 from Daegu against the U.S. championships. In detail:

• American men performed better at the Games than the Trials 34.5% of the time (19 out of 55 competitors), compared to a miserable 21.3% rate (11.5-54) in Daegu in 2011;

• American women did even better, doing better in London 38.2% of the time (21 out of 55 competitors), a bit better than the 30.8% (16-52) betterment rate of 2011;

• Combined, the U.S. team was better in London 36.4% of the time: 40 out of 110); that’s a .364 “batting average,” much ahead of the .259 (27.5-106) in Daegu.

Looking more closely inside these overall numbers:

Men’s team:
By event group, here’s how the men did from events included in the Olympic Trials meet in Eugene, using marks from the last level of competition competed in at London – preferably the final – but the qualification rounds if not advanced to the final:

• Sprints & Hurdles (5 events): 53.3% of the athletes did better in London than Eugene (8-15);
• Middle Distances (2): 66.7% did better in London (4-6);
• Distances (3): 0.0% did better in London (0-9);
• Walk (1 event in Trials): 100% did better in London (1-1);
• Jumps (4): 36.4% did better in London (4-11);
• Throws (4): 9.1% did better in London (1-11);
• Combined (1): 50.0% did better in London (1-2).

Women’s team:
• Sprints & Hurdles (5 events): 73.3% of the athletes did better in London than Eugene (11-15);
• Middle Distances (2): 16.7% did better in London (1-6);
• Distances (3): 55.6% did better in London (5-9);
• Walk (1 event in Trials): 100% did better in London (1-1);
• Jumps (4): 20.0% did better in London (2-10);
• Throws (4): 9.1% did better in London (1-11);
• Combined (1): 0.0% did better in London (0-3).

Clearly, the sprints and hurdles group was a strength, as well as the men’s middle distance runners, women’s distance runners and decathletes. But both jumps groups were under 37% and the men’s and women’s throws teams combined for a depressing 2-22 performance in London compared with Eugene. Both walkers were good, but were not competitive in terms of medal possibilities.

It was previously noted that the U.S. championships for 2011 were held nine weeks prior to the Worlds in Daegu, while the U.S. Olympic Trials were only 4 1/2 weeks ahead of the Games. In 2013, the U.S. championships that will select the American team for the World Championships will be in Des Moines, Iowa from 5-8 June, while the IAAF World Championships will be held nine weeks later in Moscow, Russia from 10-18 August.

The case can be made that having the team selection meet as late as possible allows athletes to come to one training peak and then try to hold it, rather than peaking and then re-peaking weeks later. Based on the results of Daegu and London, the empirical evidence from this small sample size indicates that later might be better.

Longtime observers of the sport will remember that the team which seemed to always be the best prepared – physically and chemically – for championships performances, was the East German squad, which usually held its trials just two weeks before, registering its athletes on the last possible date allowed. Might USA Track & Field be willing to try this . . . perhaps with the Junior Championships in 2014, in advance of the first-ever IAAF World Junior Championships to be held in the U.S., in Eugene?

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