Skip to content
Health, Sports & Psychology

Creating the perfect Olympian

Updated Thursday 10th November 2011

We delve into the thinking behind our Olympisize Me game and what it takes to create a perfect Olympian 

Olympisize me logo

Surprised by the results of Olympisize Me? We wanted to get you and others thinking about what makes up Olympic performance. Ideally our OU sports academics would be able to test you, in person and talk to you. But in place of that, here we explain what lies behind the game and offer links to more articles about what it takes to create a perfect Olympian.

Which sport?

The first set of questions ask you about your physical characteristics such as size and shape and whether you have preferences for some activities over others. In a lab we could test you but here we asked what activities you were best at during your school days (speed and/or endurance) and your standing jump performance (power). We also had to think of questions indicating your hand-eye coordination (catching a tennis ball) and, hardest of all, your agility (getting across a short, uneven, crowded space). Also, there was arm span—an indication of your arm length compared to your height. Academic evidence was used, where possible, to score these questions

The game takes these results and gradually, for each sport, discards you if you're not suitable. For instance, if you're short or a rounded shape or cannot catch a ball, you would be discounted for basketball pretty quickly. Some sports, such as archery and shooting, have broader criteria and aren’t not so quick to discount people. Also, consider that some sports such as combat sports (e.g. boxing) have weight groups, so size/weight is not so important but other factors are. We also considered one other important factor—outliers, those people who fall outside the normal distribution (range) of people you’d expect to thrive in a particular sport. Jessica Ennis, the World Heptathlon champion, is a good example—she's short at 1.65 metres, yet she breaks British high jump records! To cater for this we built in ‘lives’ for each sport so that you might be discounted by an answer to a question but by having a ‘life’ you would not be discounted from that sport, until your number of ‘lives’ for that sport is exceeded.

It makes for a very complex spreadsheet and why you are given a range of sporting options that are suited to you... however, we are always trying to refine the calculations.

Podium result?

The game then goes on once you have selected ‘your’ sport to consider psychological and social factors (family, geographical). We started with a lot of questions but gradually whittled these down to nine we felt were both interesting and that had good research evidence to support the answers. Each question is scored depending how important we felt each factor was, with having an appropriate coach, your approach to self-belief, and your parents support receiving seven marks for a correct answer, whilst other questions received lower scores. There are ‘almost right’ answers also, which get three marks. One factor received a whopping 12 marks for a correct answer—and you did not even knowingly answer it, thus showing how good fortune plays its part. This factor used the continental medal results from the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games to rate your chances of success, compared to the country you are hoping to represent. Therefore, if you chose a bicycle discipline and you are from Europe, you chances are stronger (hence 12 marks); whereas if you  you are from Africa or Asia, your chances are considerably reduced. This is applied to every event.

If your total marks obtained exceeded 72 per cent of those available, you received a gold medal with Silver, Bronze and so on, categories having a width in about 10 per cent intervals.

In the end, the main aim of this game was to get you thinking. Play Olympisize Me again.

Visit our Olympics 2012 portal or delve even further into the research behind what it takes to create a perfect Olympian by reading these articles below...


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?