Math Students Predict Japan’s Olympic Medal Count

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With impressive accuracy, a group of Class I students were able to closely predict Japan’s total medal count at this summer’s Olympics.

Using what they learned about statistics and probabilities from Mathematics faculty member Terri HerrNeckar before the games started, Christopher Scanlon ’22, Elliot Strauss ’22 and Ted Sunshine ’22 studied ” home advantage “for the Olympic host countries. to project how many medals Japan would win. Field advantage generally refers to an athlete’s ability to outperform or win more often in their home facilities.

“We took the opportunity to apply math to a global event,” Scanlon said. “Since the selection of the Olympic city is announced no later than 11 years in advance, a host country would have two Olympic Games to prepare for its possible host games. We looked at the performances of the last three Olympic host countries (China, Great Britain and Brazil) in the two games leading up to the events in their home countries. By referring to official Olympic data, we measured the average increase in the sports categories selected for each event. Together, this data allowed us to determine the approximate increase in a country’s total number of medals for the host Olympics.

HerrNeckar had given the students the opportunity to complete an unrated project on any topic of their interest. The students found home advantage research in previous Olympics and decided to make their own predictions. Traditionally, host countries tend to invest more funds in their own Olympic programs during the host years, and they typically field more athletes for games in their country than for games hosted in others. country. Lower qualifying standards for host nation athletes may also be a factor, as host nations are guaranteed certain spots at events, the students said.

They also took into account the doping scandal in Russia in 2016, believing that the reduced presence of Russian athletes in this year’s games could mean more gold medals for other countries, including Japan. Before the games started, students predicted that Japan would win 22 gold medals, but could reach 20 or 30 due to the ban on athletes competing on behalf of Russia. Japan won 27 gold medals.

The total number of medals expected by the students for the host country was 58. Japan ultimately won 57. The students were impressed with the precision of their work.

“More than anything, this research demonstrates how the Olympic Games are not just a sporting competition but a competition for public perception,” said Scanlon. “As the athletes of each country fight for themselves and for their country, the host country tries to prove that it is among the best on the biggest stage in the world.”


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