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Risk Taking and Performance in Multistage Tournaments: Evidence from Weightlifting Competitions

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  • Christos Genakos
  • Mario Pagliero

Abstract

We analyze the impact of interim ranking on the risk taking and performance behaviour of professional athletes participating in international weightlifting competitions. Weightlifting competitions are multistage tournaments with the unique characteristic that the athletes must announce in advance the amount they intend to lift at each stage, thus allowing quantification of the riskiness of their choices. We present two key findings. First, risk taking exhibits an inverted-U relationship with rank: risk taking increases up to rank six, but athletes then revert to safer strategies towards the bottom of the ranking. Second, athletes systematically underperform when ranked closer to the top, despite higher incentives to perform well. An athlete is more than 30 percent less likely to lift the announced weight when ranked first than tenth. Athletes also underperform in relatively more prestigious competitions, when the competition is more intense, and when the potential gain from a successful lift is higher. Taken together, these findings suggest that athletes may systematically "choke under pressure".

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0928.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0928

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: Choking under pressure; incentives; performance; risk taking; tournaments;

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Cited by:
  1. Grund, Christian & Höcker, Jan & Zimmermann, Stefan, 2010. "Risk Taking Behavior in Tournaments: Evidence from the NBA," IZA Discussion Papers 4812, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Urban Sila, 2009. "Can family-support policies help explain differences in working hours across countries?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28684, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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