Score for Score

Chart of the Day: Age of Gymnasts at Worlds

Chart of the Day: Age of Gymnasts at Worlds

by Brina Dec. 9, 2018

It's the second Score for Score chart of the day! This one is a bit out of date but worth featuring nevertheless. After the 2017 worlds, the next FIG newsletter featured some really interesting numbers about the competition. I've looked for something similar for 2018 with no luck - if anyone has found it, please send it my way!

There are a lot of interesting summary statistics in the report. They break down medals by region, and they show the average D and E score one event. (Spoiler: beam scores were low, vault scores were high. Shocking, I know.) It's really great that someone at the FIG is bothering to look at this sort of thing.

But my favorite is this figure showing the number of competitors by year of birth.

For me, this graph has some big takeaways for two groups of people.

To people who say that gymnasts are "little girls dancing": a full 46% of gymnasts competing at the 2017 World Championships were over the age of 18. And 27% were over the age of 20!

But, to people who say that gymnastics is for "grown-ass women": while some older gymnasts are certainly successful, 1 in 4 women at the 2017 World Championships was a first-year senior. While some gymnasts can make it the long run, it's a lot easier to get to the highest level when you're young.

I do wonder how this changes in each year of a quad. In the post-Olympic year, many more experienced gymnasts take breaks or retire. Those with the energy to make it to Worlds are usually the new seniors who didn't just put their bodies through the grueling Olympic process. It's totally possible that 2019 Worlds will have a very different age profile from the 2017 Worlds.

Also. Who does the charts for FIG? And can I have their job please? There are multiple graphs in this report with the wrong labels as well as more than a few misleading and/or hard-to-read design features. Dear lord.

Even this chart is sort of a case study in misleading data visualization. By treating the year of birth as a categorical variable instead of a continuous variable, the graph masks just how long the left-hand tail is. The distance on the x-axis from 2000 to 2001 is the same as the distance from 1975 to 1987. If I were making the chart, it would look something like this:

It tells a different story, right?

Anyway, I think that 2017 report was really cool and I hope someone is doing something similar this year.

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Tags: Chart of the Day