The ages of Olympic Grapplers (Judo and Freestyle Wrestling).

www.army.milIn this article we look at the ages of Judo athletes and of Freestyle Wrestlers at the Olympic level, this follows on from the article back in March (2009) on the “Ages of medalists at 2009 Judo World Cup events.” in which the age of Judo athletes competing at a high level was briefly examined.  In this article we look at ages of athletes in more detail and compare Judo against our Olympic cousins Freestyle Wrestlers.

In March the average age of a medalist was identified as being 24.95, looking at the larger pool of athletes in the 2008, 2004, 2000 and 1996 Olympic games the average age of a medalist in Judo is 25.54 for men and 24.99 for women.

Judo Gold medalists are on average 25.07. The other Judo medalists are on average 25.27. If we compare this to Freestyle Wrestling where the average age of athletes is 25.41 and gold medalists are on average 23.83 years of age.

What does this tell us?

One interpretation of this information is that grapplers at the Olympic level are in their mid twenties.

If we believe the theory that it takes 10 years to reach the elite level (as popularized by Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers book – UK/US) then we need to start working with young Judo athletes of 14/15 years. Obviously a 14 year old is not (normally) fully mature physically, so a long-term strategy needs to be implemented to bring the young athlete to the Olympic stage.

Having said that, if we look at the average age of Judo athletes over the 4 Olympic (1996-2008), we see the average age has actually crept up over this time from 24.96 to 26.14 years. The gap between gold and the average has changed too, from about three months in 1996 to 1 year in 2008. So perhaps the best players (the gold medalists) is not going up as fast as for the rest of the players? A simple examination does not make this clear, especially as the sample size of gold medalists is of course much smaller than the general population.

This is a small example of the sort of information this data can tell us. If you are a national governing body, do you invest your limited resources in athletes who will be outside of their mid-twenties? Do you target 14 year old athletes? This data can’t answer those questions, but with better research perhaps you could find the objective information to help make decisions in this area?

I shall look at the data in more detail but perhaps you’d rather do it for yourself?
I have uploaded my raw data at http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AqIP2spU5FrFdFR5UFdTUzdmaHVfc0FvUzZpLUR4YXc&hl=en

This  simple examination of Judo data is an example of the type of activities coaches on the EJU coaching certification courses do. It is also an examination of the type that can lead to more through research which could lead you to the International Association of Researchers.

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Data was collected from http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics

3 thoughts on “The ages of Olympic Grapplers (Judo and Freestyle Wrestling).”

  1. I ran an analysis of variance on your data, and it does not support a claim that the age gap between gold medalists and the remainder is changing. The summary AOV:
    Df Sum Sq Mean Sq F value Pr(>F)
    Year 3 362 120.7 8.06 2.5e-05 ***
    Gold 1 7 6.9 0.46 0.4977
    Gender 1 123 122.8 8.21 0.0042 **
    Year:Gold 3 36 11.9 0.79 0.4972
    Year:Gender 3 9 2.9 0.19 0.9011
    Gold:Gender 1 9 9.1 0.61 0.4365
    Year:Gold:Gender 3 27 9.0 0.60 0.6146
    Residuals 1537 23001 15.0

    Note that this does not support the claim that average age has increased over years, and that the average age of women judoka is different than men, but there is no significance to the interaction of age by year.

    According to my analysis, average age of gold medalist (men) ranged from 24.14 to 26.00; this is large compared to difference between gold medalists and the rest (ranging from 24.96-26.19), so a comparison of age of gold medalists to the average age of competitors is somewhat meaningless. Note that the average age of male gold medalists was highest in 2000 at 26.0.

    The average age of women medalists is more variable than men, but 1996 was an unusual year for that. This might be confounding the entire analysis.

    Perhaps the more interesting question here is not how to develop young athletes for success, but when to retire older competitors?

  2. Hi,
    thanks for that analysis and the comments that go along with it.
    I’m the first to to say that I am not a statistician, so I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to look through the info.

    I think your point about “…when to retire older compeditors?” is very important.
    How many squads have players taking up spots (and resources including funding) that are “too old” to be viable medal prospects?

    Thanks so much for your analysis, if you have any research/analyses that poeple might find interesting, I’d love to be able to share them here on the website!

    Lance

  3. there are a number of US Olympians/former Olympians that to be fair, have likely passed their window at winning a medal, yet with experience, clinch the Olympic spot here at the US trials. I’ve been wondering since I saw the last article about our 2008 list of qualifiers if this was the best direction with medal contention in mind.

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