Friday, April 15, 2005

National Point Standings and the US Olympic Teams

I found this at the US Curling Association Web Site - why does it not surprise me that they have this updated before anyone else I could track down?

Men's points standings

Top 9 qualify plus Italy as host

  1. Canada 32

  2. Norway 22

  3. Scotland** 20.5

  4. Sweden 20

  5. Germany 19.5

  6. Switzerland 18.5

  7. Finland 12.5

  8. USA 10.5

  9. New Zealand 7.5

  10. Italy 0 (host nation)

  11. Denmark 6.5

  12. France 2

  13. Korea 1.5

  14. Australia 1

** Scotland represents Great Britain at Olympic Games

Women's field for 2006 Olympics

  1. USA 29

  2. Canada 29

  3. Sweden 25

  4. Norway 25

  5. Switzerland 17.5

  6. Scotland 14

  7. Russia 9

  8. Japan 8.5

  9. Denmark 7

  10. Italy (host nation) 5.5

Take note! The US and Canada are tied for top in the women's.

Moreover, we know who will be representing the USA in Turin in 2006
The Cassie Johnson and Pete Fenson rinks will represent the USA at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, Feb. 10-26. Johnson and teammates Jamie Johnson (Bemidji, Minn.), Jessica Schultz (Duluth, Minn.), Maureen Brunt (Portage, Wis.) and Courtney George (Duluth, Minn.) finished second at the 2005 World Championships. Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Cass Lake, Minn.), John Shuster (Chisholm, Minn.) and Scott Baird (Bemidji, Minn.) finished with an 8-4 record at the 2005 Worlds in Victoria, British Columbia.

They were selected by a process described here - basically a playdown.
The contrast with Britain could not be greater; the unit of selection is the team and the winning team even gets to pick its own coach (subject to a certification level in the coaching program). Administrators describe the rules of play, and get out of the way so the teams can compete.


At 4/15/2005 2:58 p.m., Blogger Amateur said...

I can understand that from your point of view (a fan's) the playdown system is infinitely more appealing.

However, the point rankings underline the fact that the current best U.S. men's team is not good enough to win a medal at the Olympics without a major upset or a major improvement. Another way would be to try to create a better team from the larger pool of curlers.

Of course that team selection has to be based on some kind of subjective and transparent criteria; but it will never be as black-and-white as the playdown system.

At 4/15/2005 3:20 p.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Well, national curling standings are tricky - the national standings do not reflect the same team in each year.
But of course you are right - if one believed that some committee could a) somehow identify the best players in the country, and b) over some period of time forge them into a team, then the British selection process would make a lot of sense. And there is a skill problem in some countries.
But, you know, I suspect the teams know how to go out and find the talent themselves. They are pretty motivated. Look at what Ferbey has done. And I think curling teams need to be forged - and they do that better by themselves rather than under direction.
But this managed system is a system that CAN work - certainly Olympic results from the Eastern Bloc fron the 60s through the 80s were managed that way, combined with some pretty sophisticated periodization in training (and whatever additional help).
Bet I remain deeply skeptical about both a) and b), and I think the idea of of such direct involvement poisons the system. (It certainly did in Eastern Europe.) And what I hate most about it is it will invariably reward the sycophants and old established names over the up-and-comers, who usually find they have to sit through a selection cycle in such arrangements. (Four years later they will be established.)
I do not assume the goodwill or competence of the committee of decision-makers. If you read my post on the British system, you know I think the selectors have interests of their own that have nothing to do with the best results at the Olympics.
I also really believe that the discipline of a playdown means that a team gets chosen that has proven it can perform on the day.
I think a lot of this is the basic orientation one has - how do we find the best solution to a problem in general? - get some experts together (selection committee), or set rules and incentives and see who comes out on top.
BTW though - I think I will be reading your blog henceforth. Interesting stuff.

At 4/15/2005 3:49 p.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

And hey wait a minute no! My point of view is not solely that of a fan. But I picked Track and Field as my example in the post about the British selection process because I coached in that field for several years, and learned in the process to distrust selection committees for the obvious reason that they replace head-to-head competition by politicking, boot-licking, and other appealing behaviours (yes,sarcasm). And yes, there are lots of good arguments for them; I am just not sure they were good enough to overcome the ugly side.
On the other hand, yes, in curling, I am only a fan. And I really look forward to our Olympic Trials! I hope the teams do as well.
And I do also understand that for some sports with large teams like soccer or volleyball there is a whole new problem. Sadly I don't know how else to pick those teams except by committee. Perhaps this is why they do not much appeal to me.

At 4/15/2005 10:37 p.m., Blogger Amateur said...

And my perspective is not only as a committee member. But, like you, only a fan in curling, and very much looking forward to the Olympic trials (especially since I live in Halifax). I was just agreeing that a winner-take-all competition is the most appealing option for fans.

Your point about the teams going out and getting the talent themselves is an interesting one, and perhaps your economist friend will tell us that it is consistent with some theory of competition or efficiency of markets or whatever.

This is probably more true in a powerhouse nation like Canada, because Randy Ferbey could not win if he was carrying a team member who was less than excellent. Another way to say this is that all of the curlers on the contending teams are so good (due to the competition for players) that the potential benefits of the mix-and-match strategy are very small, and probably outweighed by "team chemistry" factors.

In another country where the talent pool is not so deep, this might not be the case.

Overall I agree with most of the points you have made, but I think that your cynicism is a bit extreme. I may be a bit biased because the Canadian Canoe Association is a very well-run organization, but in my experience these volunteer selection committees really do have the best interests of the sport at heart. They really do strive to make their decisions as fairly as possible to arrive at the best team; and I don't think that "bad" decisions are all that common.


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