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Last Chance Qualifier: How Close Were They?

June 20, 2022 by

With the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) starting in a few days, I found myself wondering . . . for those that just missed punching their ticket to Madison, how close were they really?

Were they only a handful of points out of qualifying?

Could the difference have been made up by improving their worst event?


I took the Semifinal performances of all those moving to the LCQ. I compared scores & ranks. I made groupings of those close & those not so close. I found differences between lowest ranked events & the rank needed to punch their ticket.

Keep in mind, this dataset does not include those athletes that did not compete in Semifinals but are participating in the LCQ. You can read more on them here.

Please note I'm totally ignoring how one athlete's performance in a single event would've changed the placement of the other athlete's score in that event & could therefore change how the exact total shook out. Too much brain buzz at the moment to tackle that one.


Let's check out the numbers.

Number of athletes that could have qualified by improving their worst event:

Women: 18
Men: 23

This was a number I was really interested in understanding. Though this does tell us most LCQ competitors were one stellar performance away from qualifying, what gets lost in the shuffle are the circumstances behind those who weren't.

There are three circumstances that exclude athletes from the single-event-improvement group:

  • point difference is too high. This is a duh. If an athlete was 100+ points behind the final qualifying spot, there's no chance a single event suddenly qualifies them.
  • too many events outside the top-10. Even if an athlete is consistent top-14, if he doesn't have enough high performances to overcome his low performances, he won't make it.

    Take a look at these two:

    Athlete 1: 5 - 3 - 30 - 5 - 4 - 5
    Athlete 2: 9 - 11 - 13 - 11 - 7 - 15

    Athlete 1 improves event 3 by 4 spots, she qualifies.
    Athlete 2 WINS event 6, he still doesn't qualify.
  • too few qualifying spots. In Semifinals with only 1, 2, or 3 qualifiers, the margin for error is cut event lower. Consider this athlete from a 2-spot Semifinal: 7 - 5 - 8 - 4 - 2 - 3. Even an event win in event 3 wouldn't have been enough to qualify.

Average points needed to improve worst event to qualify:

Women: 31.8
Men: 29.6

With each spot on the leaderboard representing 3.36 points (1 spot worth 1, 16 spots worth 3, 13 spots worth 4), these points represent around 9 spots. More on that next.

Average placements need to improve worst event to qualify:

Women: 8.7
Men: 8.4

On one hand, 9-ish spots in a single event doesn't seem too impossible. On the flip side, 9-ish spots in an athlete's worst event could represent an Everest-like obstacle to climb. For some athletes, those spots represent better pacing. For others, those represent a little more gas on the fire.

Largest difference in rank needed to qualify:

Women: 23
Men: 22

Some athletes (3) would've needed to really clean up in order to qualify, essentially reversing the field on their worst event.

Smallest difference in rank needed to qualify:

Women: 1
Men: 1

Other athletes (3) certainly went home playing through all the possible what-ifs.

Number of athletes with an event win:

Women: 6
Men: 9

The LCQ field has athletes that won events against Games-qualifiers. That's huge. I suspect the two qualifiers from the LCQ will be one of these event winners.

Number of athletes with an event 20th+:

Women: 8
Men: 8

These are athletes with holes in their game, an achilles heel. & if Froning, Fraser, & Davidsdottir have taught us anything, it's that champions don't let their achilles heel get them a second time.

For some, qualifying to the LCQ through Semifinals may be the perfect encapsulation of their year of training to this point. For others, with sights set on Madison, the LCQ is a roadblock.

I'm excited to see who has the grit, the power, & the presence to bust this roadblock & take those last two spots.

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