Beijing Olympics: swimmers unlikely to break world records
Tuesday 25 March 2008
has found speeds are plateauing and records could have reached their limit.
His findings also support the notion that a 10 per cent inequality exists between male and female swimmers, similar to those in long-distance running, and conclude that women will never swim as fast as men.
Prof Nevill ‘s recently-published paper ‘Are There Limits to Swimming World Records?’ follows extensive research including examining swimming records dating back to 1957 and looking at gender performance ratios.
The report, written alongside the English Institute of Sport’s Professor Greg Whyte, identifies there was an acceleration in swimming world record speeds in the 1960-1970s, corresponding with advances in technology and anecdotal evidence of institutional doping.
Prof Nevill identifies that a plateau in swimming world record speeds began to emerge towards the end of the 20th Century, despite improvements in pool designs such as ‘anti-wave’ lane ropes, and costume designs.
“Despite these technological advancements, the rate at which world record speeds have been set has decelerated over the past decade,” he said. “This would support the hypothesis that humans are approaching the limit to free-style swimming performances since, despite technological advances, only minor improvements in world record speeds have been observed.”
He speculates that the observed plateau in swimming world records is partially due to swimmers and their coaches having learnt most of the known beneficial training techniques, and partially through drug control.
Prof Nevill has previously published research concluding the women’s 1500m world record will never be broken unless an athlete cheats nature.
In his latest report, he draws comparisons with his running research and highlights that early social sports biases precluded women from competing in the Olympics at, for example, 1500m before 1972 and at the marathon before 1984.
He said: “Unlike records for middle and long-distance running events where women were precluded from competing for the majority of the 20th Century, a greater time has elapsed for gender differences in swimming world records to stabilize.”
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