- The shorter, the better
- The lighter, the better
These silly notions led to all sorts of problems in the sport. (You can read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes to get a glimpse into some of the problems that happened in the U.S.)
And really, those notions are silly. Within the small population of elite gymnasts, a gymnast's individual height and weight do not correlate with competition rankings.
The Sexy Data
In Baku, fans had access to profiles with each athlete's height and weight. So, I decided to run some regressions to see if height and weight had any influence on a gymnast's final ranking.*
And well, height and weight weren't strong predictors of final rankings. In fact, neither height nor weight was statistically significant for the gymnasts at that competition. That is, neither height nor weight has a significant impact on gymnastics results.
D and E scores, on the other hand, were statistically significant, and E scores were the strongest predictor of a gymnast's all-around ranking.
The importance of E scores shouldn't come as a surprise – if you read my previous post.
I can hear you saying, "But, Uncle Tim, what about those long lines that Elfi Schlegel always talked about? They must come into play with E-scores!"
Sorry, height wasn't a statistically significant predictor for E scores in Baku.
"But, Uncle Tim, we live in a culture that worships lithe body types? Weight must come into play with E-scores!"
Nope, weight wasn't a statistically significant predictor for E scores in Baku.
"But, Uncle Tim, shouldn't it be easier for shorter and lighter bodies to compete harder routines?"
Nope, neither height nor weight was a statistically significant predictor for D scores in Baku.
Yeah, this is a pretty tiny data sample. But, until we have more data, gymternet, let's leave behind our early-1990s notions of what matters in the world of elite gymnastics.
Smaller isn't better. Lighter isn't better.
* If the data supplied by the delegations is correct, we have a wide range of heights and weights. We have someone as tall as Gabriela Janik (169 cm) and someone as short as Laura Jurca (140 cm). As for weight, we're looking at weights from 35kg to 72kg.