Within the Judo coaching community we often argue about the value of experience, about the value of attending the “big” events even if you don’t win. So this week I decided to look at the athletes who competed in the 2005 World Judo Championships in Cairo and also in the 2007 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro. It is a simple look at the -81kg category across a mere two events, so it is only a very basic examination. The results are of interest and it would be worth researching properly.
Of the 58 athletes who fought in the -81kg category in Cairo, 21 (36%) returned to the -81kg category in 2007.
Looking at the top 8 players, 3 (37.5%) returned to the category in 2007; including the Gold and one of the Bronze medalists.
By examining the seeding position for the 21 athletes we see that 14 (66.6%) of the returning athletes came back seeded higher than in 2005.
Position in tournament:
Of the 21 returning athletes, 15 (71%) reached a later round of the competition in 2007 than they did in 2005. Three (21%) athletes reached the same point in the event and four (19%) did worse in 2007 than in 2005.
What does this suggest?
Obviously, very little examination has been done. The point of this article is only to start a train of thought, not to prove a hypothesis, so please take the following as ideas only, not scientific proof.
What the information suggests to me that there is some truth to the idea that attending the World Champs is a sensible decision in the long term planning of a Judo athlete. It suggests to me that you need to go to the world champs more than once and that your performance should improve at the next appearance. From this data we see this is right 71% of the time.
It is perhaps interesting to consider your athletes position in the world order, what if for example they lose in the first round? Well looking at the 6 athletes (from the returning athletes) that went out in the first round in Cairo, only one failed to improve upon this in Rio. 3 made it to the second round, 2 made it to the 3rd round and 1 made it to the 4th round. So perhaps sending inexperienced players who lose in the first round is not pointless as some suggest. Especially as those who made 2nd round in 2005 also tended to improve, as did those who made the third round.
For performance directors and national coaches making hard decisions about who to send to the World Championships, then more research might help determine an evidence based reason for sending or not sending athletes. It would be interesting to repeat this simple examination across all the categories and see if the results remain similar. Also another extension to this would be to look across earlier World Championships.
I would very much like to know for example how many World Championships athletes attend on average. How they improve across events; can an athlete go from losing in the first round to winning the event over a number of events? Or, is there a minimum level you need to make on your first appearance to get a medal in a later event? Do nationalities affect these figures?
If we are able to identify a consistent progression, can we manage our performance/medal target “pipeline” by looking at what we get today?