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Redefining the decathlon scoring method

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Latest post: scott, June 23, 2010
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Posted: May 16, 2010
Have you ever looked at either of these redefining decathlon scoring method? If so, what is your opinion of each? Redefining the decathlon scoring method International scoring tables overdue

Posted: May 16, 2010
I just read both of the documents to see how they try to work on the differences in scores between sprint events and throwing events.

in my opinion any system suggested or introduced will always have aspects that can be considered unfair or might be improved

the first model for example, as far as I can see, clearly favours the throwing event. I just did some "experiments" and e.g. to get the same points as for throwing 70m in the javelin one would have to jump 8,30 (something many specialists can't do) or run below 10 sec, both of which (in contrast to 70 m - look at Berlin last year) are highly unrealistic. also the impact it has on the overall scores is very dramatic.

the second model itself doesn't change the overall scores that much, the impact would not be that dramatic. maybe it's worth taking a closer look (I haven't looked that closely yet due to lack of time)

personally I don't actually like the idea of changing the scoring tables. maybe it's because all my life I used to calculate scores according to the current system and comparing results achieved under the current system. a change of the method would mean a great deal of adjustment and also discussions about earlier performances. Especially if the changes are as huge as in the first publication.

for me Sebrle's decathlon of 9026 points in Götzis 2001 has been a huge event and I consider it one of the best decathlons I've ever seen. this magic (for me) will be lost if the scores now have to be converted and a new world record holder might be proposed.
Posted: May 18, 2010
The problem with mathematical formulas based on sliding scales—no matter how many sampling decathlete scores you use—is that it shows a preference for some events over others. I still don’t understand why we can’t eliminate the point system and simply do percentages of world records. Example:

Event Record Mark Percentage

100 9.58 11.50 800

LJ 8.95 7.16 800

SP 23.12 18.50 800

HJ 2.45 1.96 800

400 43.18 51.80 800

110H 12.87 15.44 800

DT 74.08 59.26 800

PV 6.14 4.91 800

JT 98.48 78.78 800

1500 3:26.00 4:07.20 800

Total 8000

Looking at these scores, you might think that the system disadvantages throwers and distance runners because the 800 scores in those events are for relatively enormous feats while the running and jumping events are unduly rewarded. But who cares? Everyone is operating under the same disadvantages. Here are the three main advantages of my proposal:

1. Fairness. Mathematical formulas are not concocted based on assumptions but on true performances.

2. Relevance. The calculations will forever follow the world standards at the time.

3. Permanence. The scoring system remains consistent with true human limits, i.e. the world records. As the records change, so do the standards—but the decathlete will always be measured against the best of his time.

You can begin this scoring system since the advent of electronic scoring to the hundredth second, I believe in 1968. OK, send my proposal to the IAAF!
Posted: May 18, 2010
actually your proposal looks quite similar to the current scoring system which is, as far as I know also based on the world records at the time of its introduction. though it does not just use percentages but more complicated mathematic formulas.

still the disadvantages the current system has would also be applied to your suggestion. even more throwing events are even valued less (difference of roughly 200 points with the results you presented)

Of course you can say everybody is competing under the same conditions. but then the conditions might favour certain athletes, in this case the ones whose strong disciplines are the running and jumping events. good throws are hardly appreciated by higher scores.

also I would say that the existing world record does not necessarily represent true human limits at the moment. 8 out of 10 world records were achieved more than 10 years back. so the reflect the current human limits you should maybe rather take top results from last year into account.

and as world records (look at the 100m e.g.) keep on changing a time of let's say 11 seconds might be worth less points in half a year than it is now, just because someone like Usain Bolt keeps on running faster and faster.
Posted: May 18, 2010
phil vassallo has my vote! and thats all i have yo say about that. F.G.
Posted: May 18, 2010
very interesting suggestion, may be we can use the top-100 or even top-1000 average in the individual events as reference vaule (100%) and do the change only once a year, so we would eliminate the problem when Bolt smashes the WR by 0.10 seconds
Posted: May 19, 2010
3 things

I think that we have already messed up very badly with the wind rules in decathlon!

I think we are also missing one thing what do the decathletes want?

I also would like to say that if it is not broke dont fix it!
Posted: May 19, 2010
Jessica, what makes anyone think that 1.96 in the high jump is not relative to 18.50 in the shot put? I realize no one out there today does not throw 18.50 and many jump 1.96, but the fact is that most decathletes do measure up better against the elite athletes in running and jumping than they do in throwing. Look at it this way, using my system with a truly possible scenario:

Let's say Clay high jumps 2.00 (816) and shot puts 16.00 (692), for a total of 1,508 in those two events.

Now Krauchanka high jumps 2.15 (878) and shot puts 14.50 (627), for a total 1,505 in those same events.

Look who's winning? The better thrower will get the edge in this case. Think about it: In every event, every number, you know where the decathlete stands in relation to the greatest performance ever. How cool is that to know, in this case, Clay high jumps at 81.6% of the greatest high jump ever, and shot puts at 69.2% of the greatest shot put ever. In no way do we have such a system now.

Trust me: my suggested system is pure and simple. Who would need tables? Even I can do the math. It is absolutely nothing like the proposed systems.
Posted: May 19, 2010
... and I don't think we need to compare the absolute number of point between the events. It does not matter if 2.00m in HJ is worth 816 points or 916 or 861 and 16.00m in SP 692 or 629 - what matters is:

- How much is the difference between 2.00m and 2.15 (HJ) or between 14.50m and 16.00m (SP)?

- Is it easier or more difficult to improve by 16 seconds in the 1500m or by 0.45 in the 100m or by 6.60m in JT or ... which all makes a difference of 100 points (approximately)?

If athlete A runs 1500m approximately 16s faster than athelte B, than it does not matter if they get 700/600 or 650/550 points for the overall result. Just the difference of 100 Points is important.
Posted: May 19, 2010
sorry Phil - you're right. I just saw the numbers you provided and started making assumptions without really thinking about it.

I actually like the idea to make the "value" of the points a little more obvious with the percentages of current world records. But setting the world record or the current results as 100% means that the scores for the decathlon keep on changing. not just the absolute numbers but also the point differences might differ from season to season.

still all in all I have to agree with B.J. - do the athletes want a change of the score rules? because they are the ones that might be affected by any change and they should have a say. As long as there are no serious concerns among them no changes should be done - that just causes a lot of work and discussions
Posted: May 20, 2010
Jessica, two points:

1. Agreed that the scores change when the records change, and this fact is the beauty of such a system. We are always measuring decathletes against the best ever.

2. The decathletes do not need a say. They need a fair system. Did the sprinters have a say when the false start rule changed? Did the long jumpers have a say when the decision was to measure their jump from their spot closest and not farthest from the takeoff line? Did the shot putters have a say in the diameter of the ring from which they throw? I think you get my point. All the decathletes deserve is to be measured against a fair system.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Christoph, let me address each of your points:

1. You write, "What matters is how much is the difference between 2.00m and 2.15 (HJ) or between 14.50m and 16.00m (SP)?"

I see no contradiction in what you and I are saying here.

2. You write, "What matters is, is it easier or more difficult to improve by 16 seconds in the 1500m or by 0.45 in the 100m or by 6.60m in JT or ... which all makes a difference of 100 points (approximately)?"

Those numbers you quote are entirely arbitrary, reeking in subjectivity; my system is not. It takes as 100% the world record.

3. You write, "What matters is if athlete A runs 1500m approximately 16s faster than athelte B, than it does not matter if they get 700/600 or 650/550 points for the overall result. Just the difference of 100 Points is important.

I agree. Of course, the difference in points matters. Again, I see no conflict with my system.
Posted: May 20, 2010
B.J., I believe the system is broken, so it should be fixed.

No one in the world--not any of us, not an IAAF official, not any decathlete--can explain coherently and comprehensibly how the scoring system works.

Look, in soccer, you kick a ball into the net, and you're winning 1-0; in baseball, you run around all four bases safely, and you're winning 1-0; in basketball, you throw a ball into a hoop without fouling from the field to get 2 points, from a farther designated zone 3 points, and from the foul line 1 point; in the pole vault you win if you jump higher or jump equally with fewer misses. In the 110-meter hurdles, you win when you cross the finish line after hurdling over ten 42" barrier spaced equally to your opponents'. The very simplicity, logic, and fairness of these sports are what make them beautiful.

I wish I could say to some kid who asks, "Well, you win the decathlon after completing having the highest total percentage for 10 events measured by their proportion not to each other but to the world record. If you have a calculator, you can keep score." The sad truth is that I cannot and none of us can.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Consider the fallacy of using percentages of WRs. A 4' (1.22m)HJ is roughly half the rough WR of 8' (2.45m)and would be worth 500 points as a percentage. Compare to a PV10' (3.05m)with the rough WR of 20'1 3/4 (6.14m). That also would be worth 500 point by using percentages. Are they equal in value? Of course not. In the USA over 95% of 18-year olds could HJ 4'0 (1.22m) but less than 5% could PV 10' (3.05m).

The theory behind awarding points in the decathlon is that 500 points in the HJ is supposed to be worth 500 points in every other event. In my example, the 10' PVer gets shafted and the 4' HJer gets a gift. Not fair treatment. It does not equal out over 10 events. Some athletes get rewarded for cheaper marks with a percentage system. Sorry, it sounded like a good idea at the time perhaps but it rewards the less able.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Old Timer, to say the suggested system rewards the less able is matter of semantics. In your very example, you say the pole vaulters would be comparatively poorly rewarded; however, you can just as easily say that the high jump is too highly rewarded. But what is the sense in comparing one event to the other? Compare the event to itself.

Even your example proves my point. A 4' high jump actually is roughly comparable to a 10' pole vault because, pole vaulting only 10' with a 16' foot pole is as bad just about as bad as high jumping 4'.

Also, you're looking at the low end of things. If you see the current scale, you'd notice that 81 points would be awarded to a 1.00 meter (3' 3 1/4") high jump as well as a 1.67 meter (5' 5 3/4"), just as ludicrous as you claim my suggested system.

But if you look at the high end, which is what the decathlon is all about--elite athletes skilled in multiple disciplines--you'd notice that the decathlon gets extremely interesting and exciting.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Oldtimer2 is right.

Another problem with simply using percentage of the WR is that it treats each cm or second improvement in an event as equal. And that is simply not the case. It's much harder to improve from 10.30 to 10.20 in the 100m than to improve from 11.30 to 11.20. It's much harder to improve from 8.00 to 8.10 in the LJ than to improve from 6.50 to 6.60. The point differentials for those changes should not be the same. The present scoring tables recognize that.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Dec Fan, I'm not sure if I agree with you in this particular case, although I always have leaned in that direction. But still, who cares? Let's use your numbers with my suggested scoring system:

Decathlete A:

100: 10.20 (935)

LJ: 8.10 (905)

Decathlete B:

100: 10.30 (925)

LJ: 8.00 (894)

Decathlete A is winning, 1840 to 1819

Decathlete A:

100: 11.20 (831)

LJ: 6.60 (735)

Decathlete B:

100: 11.30 (820)

LJ: 6.50 (726)

Decathlete A is winning, 1566 to 1546.

So what difference does it make? The superior relative-to-world-record performance is still ahead.
Posted: May 20, 2010
let me get this straight. PHIL VASALLO would change the scores of all results when a new world record is set? i sugested in a post weeks ago for a percentage score of the then world record. period. scores would never change. any time a record is broken the bar is raised. the example i cited was JIM THORPS record against SEBERLE ( and all world record holders) compare apples to apples. any scoring table can be manipulated. i think it was MARK TWAIN that said "there are lies, damned lies,and then there are statistics''
Posted: May 20, 2010
Scott, I covered this point in a 2001 article I wrote for Decathlon2000. While my favorite all-time decathlete is Sebrle because of his quality, endurance, and consistency, he would not be the world record holder (8022) using my suggestion. Neither would Dvorak (8029) or O'Brien (8022) or Thompson (8038). Since electronic, to-the-hundredth-second scoring, I believe it would be one of my least favorite decathletes: Jenner (8171). If you include the hand-timed performers, Thorpe would be number 1 (8642). Of course, my math and the data is subject to correction. Now people are really going to get annoyed with me.

As to the Twain quote, I could not agree with you more. Alex Rodriguez has nearly 600 home runs but has only 1 World Series championship, Dan Marino has more than 400 touchdown passes with one Super Bowl ring, and John Stockton is the career assists leader and never won an NBA basketball championship. Teams with superstars possessing the heftiest stats often do not win the big one. But, statistics are damn lies that we all love telling, right? I for one, love the lie. I just like my lie better than the IAAF's.
Posted: May 20, 2010
Phil, you're right - there is no conflict with your system.

What I wanted to say is (replying to some other statement also in older discussions and the to documents Janek has posted):

We talk about "what is fair?" and "what system gives dis/advantages to what kind of athlete (sprinter/jumper/thrower)" too.

Therefor I said "the difference in points matters (not the absolute points)". Taking the WR or an top-N average (as I've suggested earlier) as reference (giving 100%, 1000 points or whatever) is comprehensible and I think it is fair. If we take the percentage of the WR in every event, we handle every event the same way and so the differences "are fair". In additi to this your systems would provide compareble performances (e.g. 80% LJ to 80% DT).

In the end we don't really need to know:

What performance is worth for example 800 points in which event?


If an athlete loses 50 points in 100m, how much does he have to jump farther in LJ to catch up.

This is no criticism on your system, just a remark

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