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UK Athletics

Performance Funnels

Funnels updated June 2008 – Olympics Games Beijing results to be included in the first quarter of 2009

Performance Funnels are another way to help identify whether athletes are on the right path to World/Olympic finals and the podium.  They don’t give a complete answer to the question “will Athlete ‘A’ win the 100m in London 2012”, but they are useful and objective tools that help to predict if an athlete has a realistic chance of success. Athletics is a sport of people and not statistics, therefore we never use the funnels in isolation and neither should you.

For example, we use the funnels to help identify athletes for the various World Class Plan Programmes (WCPP). If the funnels show that, having completed an APT/APPT*, an athlete’s performances and progress are similar to previous champions, training in a great environment and working with a recognised coach, then of course UKA will be interested in offering them a place on the WCPP. 
* The APT/ APPT is a standardised format for evaluating the performance and/or potential of an athlete, for more details follow the links to

Athlete Performance Template
Athlete Performance Potential Template

The concept is quite simple: an athlete compares their annual season’s best to the year-by-year progression of previous major championship’s finalists and medallists.

An athlete first identifies a major championship that they wish to aim for (year “0” on the top axis of the graph below), then counts back to the current year and plots their own performance profile of annual season’s bests for the last three to four years.

As a result, athletes will have a personal visual path showing their progression to date, and what they need to do to turn their potential into world-class performance:

  • Potential medallists will typically have a rising performance profile close to or above the top line of the finalist zone;

  • Potential finalists (top eight finishers) will typically have a rising performance profile in the middle of the finalist zone;

  • Athletes with a low training age and/or a very quickly rising performance profile towards the finalist zone are also showing potential to reach the final and/or medal;

  • Young athletes with performances well above the finalist zone should be viewed with caution as performances may be more indicative of overtraining, “hot-housing” or greater physical maturity;

  • Barring injury, successful athletes are unlikely to have a flat, or falling performance profile

Of course, this process only shows potential. Most crucially, an athlete has to produce the performance WHEN IT MATTERS. Interestingly, this is another mark of success. Top athletes don’t just have better season’s bests than their competitors; they are also able to consistently perform at, or close to, their season’s best under pressure.

The following example should help to make the process clear. Let’s suppose that Athlete ‘A’ wants to know if he is on track for a medal in 2012. For this example, Athlete ‘A’ is 20 years old and his best legal performances in recent years were: 10.54 sec in 2005 when he was 17, 10.45 sec in 2006 when he 18, 10.29 sec in 2007 when he was 19, and 10.26 sec in 2008 aged 20. I think you will agree that Athlete ‘A’ is a pretty good sprinter! 

The first thing to check is Athlete ‘A’s’ age – as indicated at the top of the chart. The men’s 100m funnel says that finalists are typically between 23 and 29 (there have been many successful athletes outside of this age band, but statistically, the majority of medalists and finalists fall in this range). Athlete ‘A’ will be 24 in 2012, which places him firmly in the predicted age range of successful 100m runners. However, he may not reach his peak until later in life - which means perhaps 2016 will be his year! 

Next we plot Athlete ‘A’s’ performances onto the men’s 100m funnel.  We are interested in 2012, so we plot his 2005 time at -7 (because it is 7 years before 2012), his 2006 time at -6 (6 years before 2012) and so on. The final graph looks like this:


Funnel Example

From the graph we can see that Athlete ‘A’ is definitely on the right track to be a 4th to 8th athlete in 2012. Obviously there is still a very long way to go to be the sub 10.10 runner that typically makes a final (and even further to go to become a 9.90 runner challenging for a medal!)  Athlete ‘A’ should be happy that his profile rises every year, and that he is clearly in the finalist zone.

However, he should also ask himself why he did not progress as quickly this year (his profile line flattens out) and what can be done to remedy this in training this winter. He could also mentally set himself a target to “run 10.20 sec or quicker next year” to keep him on track to success.

We highly recommend that every athlete aspiring to succeed at this level should take time out with their coach to plot their own performance profile and see what lessons they can learn.

To see the funnels for your event click on:

Men's Event Funnels
Women's Event Funnels

 If you are within a funnel and haven’t heard from us already, contact the UK Athletics Performance Department