Under attack: the heptathlon scoring method

Wim Westera

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    This paper discusses the scoring method that is currently being used in women’s heptathlon (athletics) and presents the outcomes of alternative scoring methods that display improved fairness and validity. In the March/April 2006 issue of New Studies in Athletics1 a revision has been proposed of the decathlon scoring method of the IAAF (see also the Atletics coaching website2). An analysis of the world top 100 decathlons showed that decathletes gather far more points in sprinting-based events like 100 m, 110 m hurdles and long jump than in throwing events (shot put, javelin, discus) and endurance (1500 m). Starting from the premise that allroundness is the true basis of decathlon, the current scoring method displays unacceptable bias as it favours some of the events and defers others. It lacks fairness and validity, because sprinters benefit disproportionately. In the NSA-paper, three alternative models have been proposed as candidates for replacing the existing model. The alternative scoring methods are uniform over the events and support self-stabilisation. They combine practical evidence and sound principles. Calibration to the current model is performed with existing data in order to enable smooth transitions from existing practice. As will be shown in the current paper, the women’s heptathlon displays similar anomalies and would also need alternative ways of converting performances into scores. Empirical heptathlon data have been fed into the alternative models and the outcomes are presented.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCanadian Athletics Coaching Centre. Available as e-paper at http://www.athleticscoaching.ca
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Multi-variable
    • Assessment
    • Calibration
    • Heptathlon


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