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To the early born go the spoils


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  • To the early born go the spoils

    Taking a quick glance at the newly updated all-time junior Decath list, I was struck that this particular event is almost a perfect example of the thesis that being born early in the calendar year substantially increases your chance of performing in the sporting arena:

    8 of the top 10 were born in January, one in February and only one in the rest of the year (August).

    The score is 4/10 in Junior Hep, with 6/10 in the first 3 mths of the year.

    Amongst the seniors Eaton, Clay and Hingsen were born in Jan, Hardee in early Feb. The rest of the all time Top 10 is much more even spread.

    I wonder how much the IAAF age classifications have really shaped the pool over the past decade or two.

    For a quick summary of the thesis see

  • #2
    That junior decathlon list is certainly a pretty extreme outlier if it's pure coincidence. On the other hand... if you look at world junior record holders in all events, you'll find (on the men's side) only one athlete born in January and two born in February; although five were born in March, that's still only 8/26, and the record holders are actually split 13-13 between the first half of the year and the second half of the year. On the women's side the first half of the year wins 13-12, with Dibaba not counted because her birthday is so commonly reported as both June 1 and October 1. (Two of the first-half records are held by the same person, so perhaps it should really be 12-12.) It's possible some other birth dates besides Dibaba's are iffy and that this might skew the results, but when it comes to WJRs it doesn't seem the first-halvers have any advantage that can't be explained by being half a year older.

    Even with WJR holders we can find interesting patterns, mind; for instance, among the eight WJR holders in throwing events, only Jacko Gill was born after May 6.
    Last edited by LopenUupunut; 07-24-2014, 10:30 AM.


    • #3
      There are perhaps two reasons why the Junior Decath stands out:
      - it's an event which more explicitly captures the thesis. Developing such well-rounded skills requires opportunity and encouragement. Being the bigger, more adept boy in your cohort (due to being up to 11 months older) may hone the requisite acumen.
      - this specific list is really only capturing the results from the past 7 or 8 years, since the weights and hurdle heights were changed. As such, we're perhaps seeing the more direct impact of the WYC, WJC cycle in action

      Also, relying on WJRs makes for far too small sample. It could be possible that the record-holder is the outlier in each event's population.


      • #4
        3 other events where the event specs were changed in past decade and where strength/size would matter more only give mixed support to the thesis:

        MSP (6kg)
        Of top 10, 1 in Jan, 4 in Jan-Mar, 5 in 1st half of year (and 2 of top 4 born in Dec!)

        MDT (1.75kg)
        Of top 10, 2 in Jan, 4 in Jan-Feb, 7 in 1st half of year

        MHT (6kg)
        Of top 10, 1 in Jan, 4 in Jan-Feb, 5 in 1st half of year

        Oh well, back to drawing board


        • #5
          But if I understand correctly, in the US the cutoff birth date for enrolling in school is September, right? So in your school grade-based competition system, it would be those born between September and November who have an advantage.
          Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...


          • #6
            Cut off age for school is a state-to-state dictate but most states use September 1 as most school systems start the school year close to that date.


            • #7
              It is not unusual for ambtious American parents to have children repeat a grade before entering high school in order to gain athletic advantage for the kid. In California the student must not have reached age 19 when school begins to be eligible as a senior.


              • #8
                This sounds like a theory by Malcolm Gladwell....
                My heart is still in the Caribbean....


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shivfan View Post
                  This sounds like a theory by Malcolm Gladwell....
                  I was going bring that up, it is a regular occurrence in sport that the top end have a narrow band of birthdays which can be dated back to clubs/schools trials or entry systems. It applies heavily to exam grades too.


                  • #10


                    • #11
                      Yep, that's the link I included in the opening post...


                      • #12
                        Gladwell pretty convincingly stated this case for Hockey players.

                        This kind of stuff is always both interesting, and a little think so much might simply depend on what time of the year you were born.
                        You there, on the motorbike! Sell me one of your melons!


                        • #13
                          Thankfully, I suspect it's a much bigger deal with team sports where there isn't much of a substitute for playing time and coach's attention. In track and field, a younger athlete can at least train and practice without too much loss of opportunity.