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29 Jan 2020

Steve Hollings

Steve Hollings

Author: Page Admin  /  Categories: News  / 
Earlier this month Athletics NZ statistician Steve Hollings posted his 100,000th performance on the Athletics NZ Records and Rankings website. Steve Landells finds out more about the history of the site and the man who tirelessly crunches the numbers.

Steve Hollings has always been a statistical nut. Throughout a career in which the adopted Kiwi represented Great Britain as a steeplechaser at the 1972 Munich Olympics and England at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, Steve diligently logged a daily training diary. Every performance scrupulously recorded.

The data was purely there for personal use but following the explosion of statistical athletics data websites in the late-90s and into the Noughties such as British Athletics’ Power of Ten and the renowned Finnish website Tilastopaja he mused on the value of a standalone statistical website for the sport here in New Zealand.

“I thought why is New Zealand missing out on having access to all these performances?,” explains Steve, who arrived in New Zealand from his native England in the mid-1970s. “Previously (before anzrankings.org.nz) a New Zealand statistician put out the top 20 performances in each event monthly, but I felt a lot of athletes were missing out. We wanted the statistics to run deeper. 

“Scott Newman, who was CEO of Athletics NZ at the time, was enthusiastic about the project, so we looked at setting up some minimum performances to be included on the site.” 

Software engineer Gavin Lovegrove, coincidentally a New Zealand javelin record-holder, designed the website and in March 2008 anzrankings.org.nz was launched. Overnight the New Zealand athletics community had a precious statistical resource. 

Logging all the national records, with extensive annual lists and detailed profiles of more than 4500 Kiwi athletes, the website has for the last 12 years been the bookmark favourite of many within the sport.

Each day dozens of people visit the site to check a result, compare performances and it has also become a crucial resource for Athletics NZ selectors.

“It has proved really beneficial for selectors because they use rankings lists to select teams and there is even a clause in every selection criteria, that to be considered for selection the qualifying performance has to be on the official Athletics NZ rankings site,” explains Steve.

Steve, a former National Director of Coaching and High Performance Director for Athletics NZ, a former Senior Manager of Education at World Athletics (formerly the IAAF) and General Director of the IAAF High Performance Centre in Oceania, is steeped in the sport but logging performances can be a time consuming task.

Some days in the busy summer season he will spend up to six hours a day fastidiously posting race results - in March alone (the month of the New Zealand Track & Field Championships) he could post more than 3000 results – and it is not always a straight forward task.

“Every Centre and some individuals send me the results but they can come in various formats,” explains Steve. “Some send them in Meet Manager, others in Excel while others might just send a photocopy of the recorders sheet. The North Island Colgate Games for example, had 121 pages of results, where I have to go through every result to pick out those that make the ranking lists.”

For any overseas event involving a Kiwi athlete who could qualify for a performance on the rankings - the onus is on Steve to search for results.

“At the moment we have some 80 plus New Zealand athletes on American University scholarships, so to follow their results can be challenging,” adds Steve, who has a PhD, and is a Research Associate at the Sports Performance Research Institute NZ at AUT University in Auckland.

“During the European (summer) season, I’ll also go searching for a lot of the results and occasionally you do miss the odd result.”

Steve believes the website has not only proved a success domestically but is also very well received globally. Currently the only website in the world to automatically feed results into the World Athletics rankings “thanks to code Gavin has written” – many other big athletics nations look with envy at anzrankings.org.nz.

Now aged, 73, Steve, who is based on Auckland’s North Shore, is immensely proud of the website but he knows that one day he will need a successor. He has already looked to Auckland-based athletics enthusiast Simon Holroyd to help him out and he has taught him how to post the statistical information which has proved such a crucial resource for the New Zealand athletics community.

Yet although Steve acknowledges he won’t be able to go on forever – he does not plan on slowing down any time soon.

“I’m very proud of the site and what it has achieved,” he explains. “I never thought I would get to 100,000 performances, but I’m determined to now get to quarter of a million. If I get there, and I then think I’ve had enough, I’ll be really pleased.”

 
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