Showing posts with label Olympics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olympics. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics: Which Countries Performed the Best?

Here is an excerpt from my article on the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  Note that I reference two links / articles that may be of interest:

The article looks at overall medal performance -- as well as performance as a function of population and GDP.  

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ended on February 23. History has been written, new records have been achieved and medals have been awarded. There have been many story lines such as Russian skating sensation Yulia Lipnitskaya becoming the youngest Olympic gold medalist in team figure skating at age 15. The Olympics are a special time as the world cheers for athletic excellence and countries seem to pull together to root for their country’s athletes.

As Olympic fans note, there are several lists of medal counts. Some people like to follow the gold medal count while others focus on total medals. Based on an informal survey, we created a point value system for medals as follows: five points for a gold medal, two points for silver, and one point for bronze.
Based on this point system, we awarded the following medals for overall country performance:

Gold – Russia
Silver – Norway
Bronze — Canada
Special mention: USA (fourth place)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 Winter Olympics: Will the U.S. WIn a Medal in Men's Hockey?

Below is an excerpt of an article we wrote on Team USA's men's hockey team chances at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were almost a week ago and men’s hockey is getting started. What are the chances of Team USA taking home a medal? And what about a gold?

Some people have questioned the choice of the U.S. team to overlook potentially more talented NHL stars in favor of gritty, more defensive-minded players. Team USA passed on three of the top nine American NHL scoring stars and instead chose players like gritty Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler.

Although some are unhappy about the choice of seemingly less-skilled players, I like the strategy of going for two-way players, leadership and team chemistry. Many would agree that the Canadian and Russian teams are loaded with talent. It would be difficult to beat the two favorites at their own game — and skating with them in a high-scoring, offensive-minded affair. However, by going for a grittier style of play, there is more of a chance for an upset. In addition, Team USA is strong in terms of leadership, with eight players who are captains or co-captains of their respective NHL teams.


Herb Brooks put it best:
"I am not looking for the best players... I am looking for the right players."

Carlton Chin, CFA, an MIT graduate, enjoys applying numbers to everything from sports analytics to the financial markets. He is a portfolio strategist and fund manager and has been featured in the NY Times,RantSports, Wall St. Journal, SeekingAlpha & Financial Trader.

Dr. Jay Granat, psychotherapist, is founder of and was named one of America's Top 10 Mental Gurus by Golf Digest. He has worked with Olympic athletes & sports organizations. A former university professor and has appeared on ESPN, CBS & Good Morning America.

Together, Carlton & Jay quantify concepts of sports psychology such as leadership, team chemistry, and focus on fundamentals -- and have worked with sports organizations. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Repeatability: Consistency, Athletes & Traders?!?

Here's an excerpt from an article we wrote that makes the analogy between systematic approaches that financial traders apply AND rituals or habits that athletes use (to improve repeatability, and consistency).

Interestingly, psychotherapist and founder of, Dr. Jay Granat notes that athletes use similar systematic techniques. Granat encourages his clients to come up with their own "ritual" to help with focus. This can take the form of tennis players bouncing the tennis ball three times before serving, or baseball batters taking several practice swings before each pitch, for example. 

In some ways, these rituals and habits are designed to improve repeatability -- and are an athlete's method of systematizing his or her approach.  Dr. Granat, who has worked with athletes of all levels, including Olympic gold medalists, has also worked with professional traders. 

Please read more here:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Championship Factors: Olympic Athletes

NBC uses a lot of air time to bring these close up looks of the athletes to the viewing public. And the network did a good job of communicating the nature of the time, money and energy sacrifices that the athletes and their families need to make to make it to this elite level of sports.


Over the years, I have been lucky enough to counsel a number Olympic athletes including four gold medal winners. These athletes were from a variety of sports including gymnastics, weight lifting, boxing, skiing and rowing.

This year, two clients of mine brought home gold medals. Because of client confidentiality regulations, I can not share very much about them. However, it was quite thrilling to see people who sat in my office on the gold medal platform. I have also interviewed three or four previous gold medal winners for my weekly column.

Not surprisingly, these athletes have great discipline, focus and resiliency. They also have great passion for their sport and their teammates. They also have strong feelings about representing their country.

Like the rest of us, they also have fear, anxiety and interpersonal conflicts with people in their lives.
What is really striking to me, however, is the fact that to a person, all of these remarkable athletes are quite humble, soft spoken and very respectful.
None of them were arrogant or grandiose. Rather, they were all quite genuine and down to earth.

Article Source:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympic Medal Count - Factors

As the Olympics wind down, many sports fans are looking at the number of medals won by each country.  Historically, the medals compiled by participating countries has been related to several key factors, including:

  • population
  • financial and/or economic resources, and
  • home field advantage.  
This year, the current leaders include the U.S., China, Great Britain, and Russia.  The always interesting Bleacher Report writes:

It should stand to reason that a country among the global leaders in available financial and human resources would be far more successful in athletic events that require elite athleticism, expensive training and state-of-the-art facilities.  

And, we have seen patriotism at the Olympic Games lead to some historic triumphs, such as the 1980 Miracle on Ice.   NPR reports more on the home field advantage, academic papers on the "Olympic Medal Analyses" -- and even an additional factor: communism!  Right around the time of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, two academic papers on medal counts came out, by Bernard of Dartmouth, and Johnson of Colorado College.  Here is a link to Bernard's paper.

Check these nice graphics out by the Huffington Post -- which shows totals medals, as well as medals divided by population or GDP.   Numbers -- and pictures -- can tell interesting stories!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Olympics: Revisiting a Popular Article

With the 2012 Olympics set to start in London (and today being July 4th), we thought we would revisit one of our more popular articles -- on the 1980 Miracle on Ice.  In that article, we looked at concepts of sports psychology and did an interesting and fun analysis (including Monte Carlo simulations) to study the odds of the U.S. ice hockey team winning the gold medal.

Herb Brooks was a true master of sports psychology, graduating from college with a degree in psychology.  Brooks knew he had a chance to make some noise at the Olympics - especially with the US hosting the Winter Olympics.  Brooks worked at gathering players who could lift their games to special levels -- and could also play as part of a team where the sum of the parts were greater than the individual pieces.  

On goaltender Jim Craig and other players, Brooks said, "I don't want the best players, I want the right players."  Brooks knew what he was doing when he put his 1980 team together, piece by piece.  He also knew how to "push the players' buttons" and was tough on many members of that Miracle on Ice -- but eventually created one of the most beloved U.S. sports stories of the twentieth century.

Based on key hockey statistics and expectations, we performed a Monte Carlo simulation to study the odds of the United States hockey team winning the gold medal. Monte Carlo methods use a random process to solve complicated problems...
In a similar manner, hockey games can be modeled based on certain random variables and key statistics, including shots on goal, save percentage and shot efficiency. If we model the United States team as a seventh seed, the probability of the United States winning the gold medal approaches odds as high as 1 in 1,000. 
But the United States turned out to be a stronger team than expected. Entering the medal round of the Olympics, the United States and Soviet teams were undefeated. The United States was 4-0-1, outscoring their opponents by 25-10, while the Russians were 5-0, outscoring their opponents by 51-11. The Soviet goaltenders, Vladislav Tretiak and Vladimir Myshkin, averaged a solid 88.2 save percentage, and the American goalie Jim Craig had a 91.7 save percentage.

If we base our simulations on the team’s performance in the tournament, the odds could have been as low as 17-to-1 for the United States win the gold medal.

The entire article was originally published in the NY Times in 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.  Read more here:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Co-Author of "Who Will Win" interviews Shannon Miller

One of the authors, Dr. Jay Granat, of "Who Will Win the Big Game?" had a chance to sit down with Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time All-Around World Champion gymnast Shannon Miller to discuss mental toughness, getting into "the zone," and what it takes to be a winner.

Some excerpts:

Q: Shannon, almost every athlete wants to learn how to get into the zone more often. Many of the athletes who come to see me for counseling ask about how they can best do this. How would you describe the zone?

A: The zone is the place you enter where everything else disappears. If there are television cameras or a million people watching you, it does not matter. For some people, entering the zone is innate. For others it is learned. For me, it was a combination of both.

Q: Managing injuries is an issue for many gymnasts and for many athletes. How did you learn to perform when you were not feeling well?

A: No athlete is healthy 100 percent of the time. I learned that working through a sickness or injury, being able to truly focus on the competition at hand was an extremely important skill. At the Olympics in 1996, I was battling a severe wrist injury. Not only was I having to learn how to train and compete with the pain but also understanding the importance of doing "smart" gymnastics.

Q: Were you born mentally tough?

A: I'm not really sure. I know that I was not the strongest, most flexible or most naturally talented athlete. I knew that I had to find another route to success. For me it was hard work. I was a work horse. I also found that being mentally tough; not allowing others to derail you or get into your head made me a fierce competitor."

Q: Do you have three tips for athletes who are trying to excel at their sport?

A: Set long and short term goals. Don't limit what you can accomplish and don't let others limit you in any way. Keep believing in yourself every day.

Read more here:

Dr. Jay Granat, a psychotherapist and sports psychologist, is co-author of "Who Will Win the Big Game? A Psychological & Mathematical Approach" with Carlton Chin, CFA, an MIT-trained "quant" and fund manager. Granat is founder of and Chin is chief investment officer of CARAT / Adamah Capital.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Olympic Recap and Home Field Advantage

The Canadian Olympic team capped off a terrific Winter Olympics by winning the Olympic Gold medals in ice hockey -- both on the men's and women's side. The Canadian team set a new record for most gold medals at a Winter Olympics, with fourteen. The US men's hockey team surprised many by taking the Canadians to overtime in the Gold medal game.

Over the past few weeks, several of our friends, associates, and media contacts discussed "home field advantage" with us. For instance:
  • Both the 1960 and 1980 US Olympic Gold medals in ice hockey were won in the US.
  • Italy had great medal results when they hosted the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
  • Some researchers predict medal counts for the Olympics before each Olympic games begin. In addition to looking at population, demographics, wealth, etc. -- a key factor is the actual host country!
  • Home field advantage is well-documented across all of the major sports, with individual performances also impacted by this result. In baseball, players bat about 10 points higher at home than on the road, on average.
  • The Canadian Olympic team highlighted the home field advantage by winning a record 14 gold medals at a Winter Olympics.
Home field advantage is definitely a key factor in sport psychology. Big games can magnify this factor -- and the Olympics, with national pride, and a country in unison -- can multiply this impact even more.

The predictions on this, our book's blog, continue to run up good results, with results now totaling 12-4.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game

Some readers asked us about today's Gold Medal match-up between the US and Canada ice hockey teams. Based on a similar Monte Carlo approach that we used for the NY Times article, Canada is a heavy favorite. On average, Canada would beat the US team by an average of about 1.4 goals and would win around 70% of the games played.

There appears to be value on Canada because the US defeated Canada earlier in the tournament (despite getting outshot badly) -- as well as other recent game results (for example, the final score of Canada's semi-final game was closer than the actual game).

One big sport psychology factor on the US side is Ryan Miller, a hot goalie who is "in the zone" and is certainly playing with great focus!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1980 Miracle on Ice: Quantifying Sport Psychology

The New York Times published an abridged version of our white paper on the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Please see below for the article and some text. Our white paper goes into more specifics of concepts of sport psychology, reviews specific examples of team chemistry and motivation -- and shows more results / details about our Monte Carlo simulations.

Some text from the article:

Today is the 30th anniversary of “The Miracle on Ice,” the stunning victory of the United States men’s hockey team over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The young American team of amateurs went on to win the gold medal against Finland two days later.
But how big an upset was it? Using quantitative methods and Monte Carlo simulations, we studied the magnitude of the 1980 victory. Sport psychology played a big role in the Americans winning the gold medal and helped bridged the gap from 1,000-to-1 odds, down to a more manageable level of a 17-1 long-shot.
Brooks used just about every trick in the sport psychology book.
He graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and was a successful college coach at University of Minnesota, winning three championships in four finals appearances.
Brooks gave each prospect a psychology test to help him select a certain type of player.
Brooks said, "I'm not looking for the best players... I'm looking for the right players."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cost of Olympic Gold Medal

Fun article on the value of the Olympic Gold Medal

Gold Medal Trivia Question: Which of the following is/are made out of solid gold?

a) Olympic Gold Medal

b) Nobel Prize Gold Medal

c) Congressional Gold Medal

(The answer is at the end of this post.)

What is the value of Olympic gold?

(Please click on the link)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sport Psychology Quant Facts

We enjoy studying principles of sport psychology and analyzing how we can help athletes and teams improve. We use mathematics and quantitative methods to analyze the impact of these factors.

In particular, we are interested in concepts of sport psychology that are more-readily taught, practiced, and coached. Our research has shown that many of these factors -- as well as many of the fundamentals of each particular sport -- are key championship characteristics.

This has been a common theme across all of the sports we have studied.

Some of our research has been used to predict winners in championship matches. Please let us know if you have any interesting ideas for the Olympics or March Madness. Stay-tuned for an interesting article on the Olympics.