While working on a 4-part series highlighting why modern gymnasts now skew older, I compiled data breaking down the age distribution of medal winners at each Olympics. The intent was to determine how 1st-year seniors and 2nd-year seniors fared in each Olympic quad compared to the returning veterans from the previous Olympics. In the end, it sounded like an interesting concept worth spinning off into its own separate project.
One thing that needs to be addressed, the concept of a “1st-year senior” is difficult to define because the age criteria and World Championships format has varied over the years. In some Olympic cycles the age minimum could be bypassed in a pre-Olympic year, but not others. In some Olympic cycles the World Championships were held every year, but not others. How do you define a “1st-year senior” who became senior eligible in a year where there was no World Championships such as 1998?
I defined a “1st-year senior” by taking the youngest birth year that at least two gymnasts shared in each Olympic Games and making that specific year the “first year” definition for the entire quad. This was done to get around age falsification scandals, data entry errors that exist in the IOC database, the impact of Covid-19 on the 2004/2005 generation, the old rules allowing juniors to compete in a pre-Olympic year, Olympic quads with gap years in the World Championships schedule, instances of a lone gymnast being granted special permission to compete as a senior, and the pre-Nadia era where no age minimums existed at all.
I felt this was the best way to create a metric that was cohesive with all eras from the 1960s to the current Olympic quad. Other disclaimers that need to be addressed, Andreea Raducan is counted as an Olympic All-Around medalist and my data features four All-Around medal winners for the 2000 Olympics. Age falsification scandals are nullified because I created this data to measure experience as opposed to actual age. Gina Gogean for example is counted under her falsified birth year in 1996 because it felt weird to ignore her status as a 2x Olympian.
Counting falsified ages had only a minor impact from 1992-present. However, there was far too big of an impact to ignore it in 1988. Daniela Silivas won six medals while competing under a 2-year age falsification and that had a massive impact on the data. So, I produced two different versions of 1988. One with Daniela’s actual birth year and one that was consistent with all the other graphics where age falsification scandals are ignored.
I stopped at 1988 because I haven’t yet figured out how I want to proceed with the 1984 boycott. In the future I may expand this project to add data from earlier Olympic quads. I also counted only individual medals won at the Olympics in women’s artistic gymnastics.