April 11, 2006

Canada's 2006 Performance, Part 3

In Part 1 of this post, I reviewed some predictions of Canada's medal performances at the 2006 winter Olympics. In Part 2, I discussed the overall performance of the team by sport, and assessed progress toward achieving the goals of the Own the Podium 2010 program. In this final segment, I want to take a quick look at two other aspects of the Canadian team's performance.


Way back when I started this blog, my first "left-brain special" was an analysis of Canada's performance at the 2004 summer Olympic Games; specifically, the number of 2003 World Champions and World Championship medallists who won Olympic medals in 2004. What I found was that Canada did very poorly in that regard, converting only one out of every three medal favourites. I took a similar measure for five other countries and found that 2003 World Championship medals were converted to Olympic medals at about a 60% rate, and 2003 World Champions won Olympic medals about 90% of the time.

The Own the Podium 2012 plan, which I discussed in Part 2, makes a similar point. The 2002 "success rate" is quoted as 27%, with a goal of 50% by 2010. I don't know exactly what those numbers are based on, but it has something to do with the percentage of Canadian medal favourites who actually win medals at the Olympics. To the best of my knowledge it is based on results at World Championships and World Cups, but I don't know the details of the algorithm.

The COC did release a lot of information on past results, and 2006 performances. This document contains some very interesting breakdowns of Canada's performance, including a table showing the number of top-5 finishes at the 2001 and 2005 World Championships, compared to the number of Olympic medals in 2002 and 2006. In 2001, Canada had 27 top-5 World Championship results; by 2005, Canada had increased that number to 41. In both cases Canada's year-after Olympic medal total was about 60% of this number. If the percentage is meant to increase as a result of Own the Podium, it hasn't worked so far. On the other hand, Canada's results are similar to the world's other winter powers; among the top 12 medal-winning nations in 2006, only Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, and Korea exceeded 70%.

At any rate, that statistic isn't really about "conversion," since it doesn't address medal favourites specifically. Since I don't have access to the COC's definition of success rate, I'll have to repeat my own. Table 1 below shows the athletes and teams that won World Championship medals in 2005, with their 2006 results.

Table 1 — Canadian conversion from 2005 World Championship medals to 2006 Olympic medals (source: COC).
Athlete or TeamEvent2005 Placing2006 Placing
Emily Brydon Women's Alpine Combined 3 13
Leuders/Brown 2-man Bobsleigh 1 2
Canada-1 4-man Bobsleigh 3 4
Sara Renner Women's Cross Country Sprint 3 16
Canada Men's Curling 1 1
Jeffrey Buttle Men's Figure Skating 2 3
Steve Omischl Men's Freestyle Aerials 1 20
Jeffrey Bean Men's Freestyle Aerials 2 19
Marc-André Moreau Men's Freestyle Moguls 2 4
Canada Men's Hockey 2 7
Canada Women's Hockey 2 1
Jeff Pain Men's Skeleton 1 2
Jasey-Jay Anderson Men's Snowboard PGS 1 20
François Boivin Men's Snowboardcross 2 10
Justin Lamoureux Men's Snowboard Halfpipe 2 21
Maëlle Ricker Women's Snowboardcross 3 4
Kristina Groves Women's Speedskating 3000m 3 8
Canada Women's Speedskating Team Pursuit 2 2
Clara Hughes Women's Speedskating 5000m 3 1
Cindy Klassen Women's Speedskating 1500m 1 1
Cindy Klassen Women's Speedskating 3000m 1 3
Jeremy Wotherspoon Men's Speedskating 500m 3 9
Canada Men's Short Track Relay 1 2
Canada Women's Short Track Relay 1 2
François-Louis Tremblay Men's Short Track 500m 1 2

There were 25 Canadian entries that went into the 2006 Olympics as defending World Championship medallists. Of these, 12 won medals, for a conversion rate of 48%. That's better than what I found at the 2004 summer Olympics, but it's tough to compare the summer and winter data directly. Eight out of ten Canadian World Champions managed to win medals, which is also significantly better than I observed in the 2004 results. I can't compare to other countries, or to Canada in 2002, without a lot more leg work than I am willing to do right now. However, it looks to me like Canada's success rate has improved somewhat.

Beyond Medals

Finally, a while back one of my commenters wrote that counting "top 8" finishes might be a better measure of NOC strength than counting medals. I responded that unfortunately that information is not easy to come by. The COC report that I mentioned above spells it all out completely.

Figure 1

Figure 1: click to enlarge

Figure 1 — National performance from the 2006 winter Olympic games. The stacked bars show gold medals, total medals, top-4, top-5, and top-8 finishes (click to enlarge).

The figure at right lays out the gold medals, total medals, top-4, top-5, and top-8 finishes for the top 10 medal-winning countries. There are a few interesting things here. First, Canada did indeed have more fourth-place finishes than any other country (13). Canada finished tied with Germany for most top-4 (37) and top-5 (45) finishes.

Korea had very few finishers in 4th to 8th position — three, compared to eleven medallists — indicating a lack of overall depth. This is of course supported by the fact that 10 of 11 medals came in a single sport. Austria and Sweden show the same effect to a lesser degree, whereas Norway's overall depth is revealed by the large number of top-8 finishes, in spite of the poor showing in the medal tables.

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