Athlete vs. Algorithm: How Our 2018 Winter Olympics Predictions Compared to the Actual Results

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

And while athletes from across the world were battling it out for first place across 102 events, Sciencing engaged in a competition of its own. We set out to predict the results of the Winter Olympics, and found ourselves neck and neck with some major publications.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Evaluation Methodology

To better understand our performance, we'll take a look at the various factors that contributed to the results. We'll start by looking at how other publications organized their predictions. Here are the three types we noticed:

Then, depending on the prediction data provided by different publishers, we will evaluate them in following manner:

  • Exact Predictions: Number of correct medallists predicted
  • Total Absolute Error (TAE): Sum of absolute difference between each medal type count. In cases where the gold, silver and bronze medal counts are each given, we calculate TAE on a per-medal basis. If not, TAE only factors in the total medal count.

Exact Predictions offer the best evaluation metric, followed by TAE in cases where each medal type count is provided. TAE for total medal counts is the third-best evaluation metric. This is because in case of TAE the error can get distributed. For example, let's say we predicted Canada to win gold in men's curling but not in women's curling. If Canada loses men's curling but wins in women's curling, the overall gold medal count is still the same.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Sciencing vs. Other Publications

During the Olympics, we were in a tight race with the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated, sitting comfortably in second place for a good chunk of the games. A poor finish relegated us to third place in total predictions, though, leaving us with the bronze medal.

Here's a look at the final medal table:

Gracenote only published overall medals tally predictions. So we used TAE to compare our result with them. We beat Gracenote in all medals type. Gracenote's VMT missed 2 countries that won medals: Slovenia and New Zealand. Here's the TAE for different medals:

Wall Street Journal only published overall total medals tally predictions. So we used TAE to compare the results with them. WSJ's error is lower than ours. They had a TAE of 74 and sciencing had TAE of 82.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Our Predictions vs. Reality

  • Of the 307 medals awarded at this year's Winter Olympics, we had accuracy of 72/307 (23.45 percent) for correct overall medallists predicted.
  • Though the Associated Press predicted most correct medals, Sciencing and Sports illustrated had most correct gold medals.
  • Our accuracy in predicting the winner of each event is the highest amongst all predictions, 36/102 (35.29 percent).
  • Our prediction is the only prediction that got all 30 medal winning countries exactly right.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Factors Worth Noting

While our overall accuracy figures might not appear great, there are a handful of factors outside our control. For example, events with penalties (like biathlon) complicate the process and add a layer of unpredictability. Team events also make results difficult to project, because a country's roster during the regular season (where our prediction data came from) might feature athletes who aren't on the Olympic roster.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Quick Facts/Olympic Highlights

  • Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer won gold in the men's 5000m event. He's now the only male speed skater to win the same Olympic event three times.
  • Ester Ledecka became the first woman to win Olympic gold medals in two different sports at a single winter games. The Czech athlete is primarily a snowboarder, but stunned the world by winning the women's super-G final, borrowing Mikaela Shiffrin's skis in the process. She won the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding on Day 15.
  • Norway's Marit Bjorgen won gold in cross-country skiing (30km mass start) and became the most decorated Winter Olympian in history. With five medals in PyeongChang, she now has 15 total medals over the course of her Olympic career.
  • The United States won gold in women's ice hockey, beating Canada in an epic round of penalty shots and securing the team's first gold medal in 20 years.
  • American figure skater Nathan Chen became the first figure skater to land five quadrupole jumps in one program.

The 2018 Winter Olympics wrapped up in PyeongChang, South Korea on Feb. 25. After 17 days of fierce competition, Norway continued its Winter Olympics dominance, walking away with 39 total medals. Norway and Germany each won 14 gold medals, though Germany fell to second place on the overall table with 31 total medals.

Gold Medal Predictions

Here's event wise gold medal predictions by 4 publishers. Note that in case of a tie (Bobsled 2-man), we awarded points if atleast one of the predictions were correct.

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