Before the introduction of decathlon and heptathlon rankings, qualification for the combined events at major championships was a relatively straightforward process. Achieve the qualifying standard within the relevant timescale, fulfil the selection requirements of your national Federation, and the job was done.
That was the system for the World Championships in 2019 in Doha. Athletes who scored over 8200 in the decathlon and 6300 in the heptathlon qualified automatically. Any remaining places were filled by the next best performances from the year’s world lists.
But the system changed in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics. While a qualifying standard still applied – 8350 for the decathlon and 6420 for the heptathlon – the fields were topped up using the new world decathlon and heptathlon rankings lists, instead of the next best scores on the world lists. The standards have since increased further for the 2023 World Championships and other events.
World Athletics updates the rankings list every Tuesday and publishes them on Wednesday, taking into account the performances from the previous weekend.
But the WA list does not easily display where each athlete achieved their big rankings score. It does not show which performances are about to expire, and who’s missing from the decathlon and heptathlon rankings. It doesn’t easily show the outlier performances, for example where a modest results score has been boosted by the placing score at the competition at which it was achieved.
So, here you can find an analysis of the latest decathlon and heptathlon rankings position, including:
- Who has moved up the list, and why;
- Who has moved down the list;
- Who is a new entry on the list; and
- Who has fallen off the list.
April 2023: an analysis of the impact of the Copa Brasil, Australian and South African nationals, Texas Relays, Jim Click and Mt SAC meets on rankings.
May 2023: an analysis of the impact of Multistars, US college conference champs, Portarathlon, Defi’athlon, Goetzis and Bernhausen on rankings.
June 2023: an analysis of the impact of NACAC, NCAAs, Ratingen, Arona and various national championships on rankings.
July 2023: an analysis of the impact of the Asian Champs, the EU23 champs, Balkan Champs, CAC, Bydgoszcz and various national championships – including the US trials – on rankings.
30 July 2023: an analysis of the impact of the South American Championships and multiple national championships on rankings, including the expiry of points from the 2021 SA Champs, and the expiry of points from the start of the 2022 indoor season.
8 August 2023: an analysis of the impact of the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, and the British championships, on rankings.
29 August 2023: an analysis of the impact of the World Championships in Budapest on the rankings.
5 September 2023: an analysis of the impact of the German championships and, belatedly, the European U20 championships on the rankings.
12 September 2023: an analysis of the impact of the scores from the 2022 NCAA Indoors scores expiring.
19 September 2023: an analysis of the impact of the scores from the 2022 World Indoors in Belgrade expiring.
26 September 2023: an analysis of the impact of the results from Decastar, Talence.
3 October 2023: an analysis of the impact of the Asian Games, and expiry of scores from the 2022 Australian Championships.
10 October 2023: an analysis of the impact of the expiry of scores from the Copa Brasil competition in April 2022.
17 October 2023: an analysis of the impact of the expiry of scores from the Bryan Clay Invitational, and the Mt SAC relays, in April 2022.
24 October 2023: a summary of current rankings – no changes to top 100 this week.
31 October 2023: an analysis of the impact of the Pan American Games decathlon on the rankings.
7 November 2023: an analysis of the impact of the Pan American Games heptathlon on the rankings, and the expiry of scores from meets in May 2022, including the US Champs and Multistars.
How the rankings work
The decathlon and heptathlon rankings are calculated on a combination of three elements:
- The number of points an athlete achieved in a combined event
- The competition in which they achieved that performance
- The position they placed in the competition
The results score is dependent on the number of points an athlete achieves in a decathlon, heptathlon or pentathlon.
The placing score is determined by the competition in which the athlete participates, and the position in which they finish. .
The performance score is the sum of the results score and the placing score.
The ranking score is the average of an athlete’s two best performance scores.
It is this number, the ranking score, which determines position on the rankings list. The ranking score is typically between 1000 and 1500 for the top 100 athletes.
The full details on how results scores and placing scores are determined can be found on the World Athletics website. The site also explains the different points available in various categories of competitions, and the limitations that apply to collecting points (e.g., World v Olympic, nationals, decathlon v heptathlon v pentathlon, expiry dates).
Eligible athletes and performances
Currently performances achieved with U20 implements are not permitted to contribute towards rankings. This means that male U20 athletes are unranked when they leave the U20 age group. They then need to secure two valid performances in their first year as a senior. This does not affect female U20 athletes, who use the same implements as their senior counterparts, and can be ranked while still competing in the U20 age group.
While Russian and Belarussian athletes are not currently permitted to compete internationally due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they can still feature in the rankings.
World Athletics indicated that they would review the rankings system late in 2022. They have now adjusted the previous rule which did not allow both Olympic and World championships to be included, originally intended to avoid overweighting of placing scores.
That previous rule did not take into account that combined eventers only do a few competitions a year.
It led to the nonsensical situation where the 2022 World Champion and 2021 Olympic silver medallist Kevin Mayer fell out of the decathlon rankings in September 2022. That was mere weeks after his second world title. He did so because his 2021 European Indoors performance expired, and his 2021 Olympic podium performance was cancelled out by the 2022 World Championships.
World Athletics remedied this by allowing both competitions to count. However the earlier one would only be awarded GL placing scores (i.e. the same as Götzis). This will also be the case for the 2022 and 2023 World Championships.
Mayer therefore returned to the number one spot in January 2023, but then soon after became unranked again as his Olympic performance expired, outwith the eligible period. He only re-entered when he completed the heptathlon at the European Indoors in March. This highlights the poor design of the rankings for combined events – the then world champion and Olympic silver medallist unranked by World Athletics.
World Athletics also announced that, from 1 January 2023, it “will only process results (for all its statistical purposes including World Rankings) which have been achieved in a competition listed in the World Athletics global calendar.”
Considering rankings scores when planning competitions
Athletes and coaches now need to take the decathlon and heptathlon rankings into account when planning their strategy to secure qualification for major championships. This is especially important if athletes are not likely to be in a position to achieve the automatic standard during the qualifying period.
For example, decisions are required on whether to focus on potential big placing scores at national championships, even with poor conditions and/or little competition; or whether to focus on results scores in good conditions with good competition, but with little or no placing score. From 1 January 2023, extra care is needed to check that the meeting at which an athlete is intending to seek qualification or boost rankings is on the World Athletics calendar.
This page, and the individual posts which are linked above, are intended to support athletes and coaches in considering where they compete, as well as how well they compete.
The posts will highlight the features common to those who qualify, the opportunities from which some have benefited, and the dangers of landing a big score in the wrong place.
Rankings v World lists v Qualification
It can be complicated to keep track of rankings lists, world lists, and qualification lists for championships.
Qualification can depend on the selection policies of individual Federations, the status of ANA athletes and the priorities of NCAA athletes. “Protected” places also come into play in certain championships, as do maximum numbers for individual countries.
Further restrictions are imposed by the reduction and limitation of field sizes. This particular challenge led to Fredrik Samuelsson’s and Decathletes of Europe’s work to lobby for an increase in field sizes in March 2021. That work resulted in an agreement by European Athletics to trial a bigger field size (14, from 12) at the European Indoors in 2023.
You can find the qualification arrangements for each Championships, and links to the “Road to…” tools, on the qualification page.