May 14, 2006

Summer Sport Report Cards 2005

In the past few years, the agencies that fund high-performance sport in Canada have made a change to their basic philosophy. Instead of stretching the available funding until it's thin enough to cover every sport, there has been a trend toward concentrating financial resources on sports with the greatest probability of international success. I've previously touched quite a bit on the winter sport Own the Podium program. Today I want to talk about summer sports.

The 2005 Report of the Canadian Sport Review Panel was finally completed and released last month. The CSRP is an arm's length group of technical experts that reports to Canada's high performance sport funding partners: Sport Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC). The CSRP was created with a mandate to assess the high performance programs of Canada's summer sports, and the potential for repeatedly winning medals at the summer Olympic, and the summer and winter Paralympic Games. The report contains summaries of those assessments, and funding recommendations for each sport from the CSRP.

Before I get into the data, it is important to note that the CSRP evaluation is based on the high performance programs of the various sports, and doesn't address the broader goals of Canada's sports organizations, such as participation or outreach.

(I should also disclose the fact that my brother is one of the members of the CSRP. He has never discussed any confidential information with me, and all of the information I am going to discuss here is in the official report linked to above.)

The CSRP defines several categories of Olympic summer sports, from 1A through 6B. Category 1A/1B is for Olympic individual/team sports with high probability of podium success, category 2A/2B is for sports with moderate probability of podium success, and so on. Sports are ranked on the basis of their athlete development systems, technical leadership and authority, organizational commitment and the capacity to implement, and sport science development.

There are three 1A sports, two 2A sports, three 2B sports, and four 3A sports. Altogether, these sports garnered 55% of the CSRP funding, and account for 17 of the 20 medals that the CSRP predicts Canada will win at the 2008 Olympic Games. I will focus on these twelve sports.

As part of the CSRP evaluation process, each Canadian NSO was asked to provide detailed information to the panel. This information included a budget submission, and an assessment of potential Olympic medal performances in 2008 and 2012. The CSRP then performed its own evaluation of the submissions, and used them to provide recommendations to the funding partners. The table below attempts to capture some information about the NSO inputs, the CSRP evaluation, and the sport performance in 2005, for each of the sports in categories 1A through 3A.

Table 1 — Summary of CSRP inputs, outputs, and 2005 performance.
Olympic Sport
CSRP Support 2005-06 2004 Olympic Medals 2008 Medal Prediction 2005 Worlds (Olympic Events)
CategoryReqst. ($K)Recmd. ($K) SportCSRP Top 3Top 8Top 12
Canoe-Kayak (Sprint) 1A 1420 987 3 5 3 4 6 9
Aquatics (Diving) 1A 515 377 2 4 2 2 5 8
Rowing 1A 994 898 1 3 3 1 3 3
Athletics 2A 766 823 0 6 2 1 5 12
Cycling (all) 2A 803 562 2 7 1 0 5 6
Soccer (women) 2B 140 140 0 1 0 N/A N/A N/A
Softball (women) 2B 480 229 0 0 1 N/A N/A N/A
Waterpolo (women) 2B 666 468 0 1 1 1 0 0
Gymnastics (Artistic, men) 3A 501 299 1 1 1 1 1 1
Aquatics (Swimming) 3A 1462 688 0 4 1 4 9 13
Gymnastics (Trampoline) 3A 493 150 1 1 1 0 1 1
Wrestling (women) 3A 240 259 1 1 1 1 3 4

The list of sports follows CSRP terminology; in many cases they identified one discipline governed by an NSO as a distinct "sport" separate from other disciplines. It is significant that "men" and "women" are listed as different disciplines in some sports. The CSRP has obviously decided that in many cases one gender should be supported more than the other. The support money in the table is only the portion for Olympic funding, which is separate from Paralympic allocations. The "Requested" column shows the budget presented by the NSO, and the "Recommended" column indicates the CSRP recommendation to the funding partners. The next column lists 2004 Olympic medals — the twelve sports in the table accounted for all but one of Canada's 12 medals in Athens. The 2008 Medal Prediction column indicates the number of medals predicted by the NSO, and the number of medals predicted by the CSRP after an evaluation of the NSO submission. The last three columns show Canada's performance in each discipline at the 2005 World Championships.

It is amusing to note that the sports, when asked to predict their own success at the 2008 Olympics, came back with a "bottom-up" estimate of 68 medals — more than three times the total in 1996, which was the best non-boycott result ever. The CSRP has refined that estimate to 20, with a "top end" of 30. The top 12 sports included in Table 1 — presumably the best-managed of the bunch — thought that they could contribute 34 medals in 2008. The CSRP reduced this by "only" a factor of two.

The lion's share of that reduction came from Athletics, Cycling, and Swimming, which together predicted 17 medals in 2008. That story didn't wash with the CSRP, who reduced the number to 4. That mistrust of the medal predictions didn't necessarily translate into a loss of sport funding; Athletics, in fact, was recommended for a larger allocation than they asked for.

All three of these "over-confident" sports had relatively good years in 2005, putting a large number of athletes into top-8 and top-12 positions at the 2005 World Championships. The top 12 sports are otherwise living up to CSRP expectations, with sprint canoe/kayak and diving leading the way. It will be interesting to follow progress leading up to the next summer Olympics.

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