Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A British Lookahead to the Olympics

Steve Cram, no stranger to the Olympic selection process, though I am not sure about his calendar appearances, has an entertaining article in the Guardian on curling.

He begins by looking back to the British curling victory in Salt Lake, and observes something it is hard to imagine:
Curling was briefly cool.
The article then moves on to the top issues in curling in Britain today and they will be no surprise to our readers.

Number one is of course "the calendar". Number two is the British Olympic selection policy.
The calendar is a departure from tradition for the sport as is the selection policy. Britain has been represented at all previous games by the team ranked highest at the time of selection. Martin's squad got the nod last time in the women's event ahead of Jackie Lockhart's team who went on to become world champions later that year. Both skips knew their players' games in intricate detail which was a huge factor in their success but that sense of teamwork and inter-dependency has been discarded for 2006.
Cram was an individual athlete himself, but understands the issue of the skip's knowledge of the team.
As Real Madrid might tell you, the best individuals do not always gel as a unit and the women's squad contains three potential skips where only one is required.
Which hits on another issue, that of clashing egos not totally sorted out.

Cram finishes by bringing the two themes together.
Whoever loses out will probably feel aggrieved and an offer to appear in next year's calendar is unlikely to provide much consolation.
Read the whole thing.


At 11/23/2005 10:58 p.m., Blogger Amateur said...

Are you trying to egg me on, Alan? ;-)

Perhaps you should think of it as a risk-taking strategy. The Brits, despite being Olympic champions, are not really top contenders, as Cram touches on at the end of the article.

The selection policy -- the new one -- has high risk, but also a high upside. You are correct that it might blow up in their faces. On the other hand, it just might result in a much better team than any of the pre-formed rinks. Maybe.

At 11/25/2005 7:51 p.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Of course I am trying to egg you on.
Your point makes some sense - if you are almost surely a loser you should do something wild to try ot catch the odd chance. However, the proven success on this front is to send a team, as they did in 2002, surely equally unlikely to win back then, who know how to work together.
Do you really belive that the funds the Brits are spending on this complex adminstrator-heavy solution are being better spent than if they shipped a proven foursome off to Canada to play in bonspiels over here for several weeks?
I don't know the answer but I do know that the Olympics are about winning the competition on the day, not about pleasing selectors, and far too many countries send those who have done the latter. I am pleased Canada is doing it the right way.

At 11/29/2005 11:19 a.m., Blogger Amateur said...

Well, I think we have been over some of this ground before. I am also pleased at Canada's solution because it is so much more entertaining for the fans, and I am a fan.

My basic theory (repeated) is that there is a spectrum of possibilities here and that different solutions will work best in different environments. I am not really sure where the Brits fit into this, but Canada's 'curling market' is competitive enough that the Canadian approach probably results in something very close to the best possible team. Where there is very little competitive pressure within a country, the 'best' team may not form naturally -- you might use your sister-in-law as a lead because you like her so much, even though there is a better lead at the club in the next town.

I am also not entirely sure where curling fits on the 'teamwork' scale between, say, the swimming relays (little teamwork) and ice hockey (lots of teamwork). This will have some impact on the effectiveness of the selection strategy, too.

Anyway, I know that you have some historical context for your fixation with 'pleasing selectors' -- as if it's all about giving them presents, or something -- but there's nothing about the 'select' method that inherently prohibits objective assessment of skill.

At 11/29/2005 11:59 a.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

" there's nothing about the 'select' method that inherently prohibits objective assessment of skill"

Nothing except human nature.

At 12/20/2005 1:36 p.m., Blogger wee eddie said...

Can you name any other sport that allows the Team Captain to choose his team?

At 12/22/2005 2:00 p.m., Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Ryder Cup in golf - actually a mixed case, but I think there are similar things in tennis where the processs is purer? I don;t think it would take a lot of digging. It seems to me the selection processes for teams (or individuals) in various competitions (and for starting lineups in those competitions) takes many forms (playing captain, non-playing captain, manager, general manager, committees of various types, ...).
Each has its place and merits and demerits. Generally the one I like least is handing the task over to the sporting federation's administrators.
Sometimes I don't see a viable alternative - the Canadian Olympic hockey teams that just got picked seem an example (there is no viable pool of existing teams one could simply pick one of), though maybe a vote of all the eligible NHL players would be better, though it might be tricky getting a positional balance.


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