August 21, 2005

Progress Or Perish

Just a couple more items from the world athletics championships, and then I'll move on.

In case you missed it, the UK had a disappointing championships, winning three medals and reaching only six individual finals. (Also sucking: Canada, Germany, China, and Kenya.) UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins is looking for a solution, and this story in the Sun suggests one possibility:

What we want to achieve and what the public want are medals and final places at major games. And if athletes are flatlining in terms of progress, then maintaining them in that comfortable situation is unacceptable. Unless they recognise they need to work to reach targets and look to improve, why would I continue to fund them?

This raises an interesting and somewhat thorny issue. Mr. Collins is suggesting that an athlete's funding should be somehow linked to performance progression as opposed to performance per se.

Canadian Athlete Assistance Program (AAP) funding already has similar stipulations. It is possible, in theory, for the best Canadian in any given sport to be removed from the national team because his or her performance is not improving. In practice, however, these selection criteria are very difficult to apply. In effect, it comes down to a choice between athlete A, who is a proven performer, but probably on a downhill slide; and athlete B, who is not yet as good as athlete A, but still improving. It might make perfect economic sense to select athlete B in this circumstance, but it is a very difficult philosophical decision to make.

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