Tag Archives: simpsons paradox

“I’ll probably go back to compound.”

22 July, 2015

Photo: hdwpics.com

Brady Ellison vented his frustration to ESPN about the set system that saw him lose the gold medal match to Luis Alvarez in Toronto at the Pan-American Games, despite Alvarez failing to get an arrow off in time in the fourth set. Full details here:


“I outshot the guy by 11 points,” he said. “We’re a score-based system where you can miss and win — and that’s what happened. I don’t agree with it and it’s probably one of the reasons I’ll be done with this sport unless it changes. It’s kind of B.S. in my opinion. You can’t make that big a mistake in the gold-medal match and win. He shot well the other sets. But you miss and win, I disagree with that.”

The former No. 1-ranked archer and two-time Olympian said he might leave recurve archery after the 2016 Olympics if the scoring system doesn’t change:

“I’ve been thinking about it since we went to sets in the team rounds. It’s taken away our world records, and fun toward shooting,” Ellison said. “A lot of my contracts are up in 2016 so unless something changes or I get some really big contract, I’ll probably go back to compound.”

The quote from Luis Alvarez is worth reading:

“A lot of people said that a running score is better. Because I just missed a shot and I still win. How can an archer that missed one arrow win?” he said. “It’s two sides of the same coin. But in the end, the set system requires more concentration. If my shot was to miss, the other archer has no pressure because I already will lose by shooting a miss. But the set system helps you make a bad shot and recover in the next one and that’s more competitive.”

“Some archers say it’s not OK, some archers say it’s good. But in the end, competition is like that. It was good.”

This also sparked a lively discussion on the Infinite Curve Facebook page. I don’t have time to search through all Brady’s H2H matches for the last few years, but I find it difficult to believe that he’s never won a high-level match while still scoring less than his opponents. But maybe that’s the case.

Brady also makes a tennis analogy. It turns out that around five percent of professional men’s tennis matches since 1990 have been won despite the winner scoring less total points than the loser, because of the set system (it’s even possible to win a match winning less total games than the loser, if you won something like 0-6, 7-5, 7-5). This anomaly is referred to as Simpson’s Paradox, and there’s a particularly interesting article about it here.  Does anyone have the number crunching ability to track through IANSEO and see the proportion of H2H matches where this occurred? Would be very interesting to know.

The purpose of changing to a set system in H2H recurve matches was to improve archery as a spectator sport, of course – but that was a change that was agreed and tested with athletes. Brady Ellison is one of the biggest draws on the circuit, and has won three World Cup finals using the very same set system. I also know Brady rides the waves of his emotions, he’s the very opposite of a cool, machine-like shooter. That’s one of the things that make him a great sportsman and a great human being, and I suspect this outburst, no doubt shortly after the match, was born out of deep frustration at not quite achieving the incredibly high standards he sets himself.