Swimming enthusiasts should expect only a few new World records in London this summer as competitors must forego the now-‐banned “ﬂotation suits,” the expensive and controversial full-‐body swim suits that nearly all the swimmers wore at the 2008 Olympic Games. Joel Stager and his colleagues, Chris Brammer, Kirk Grand and Dave Tanner have created a statistical model based on the times of the Olympic ﬁnalists for each Olympic swimming event since 1972. Over time, swim times should improve in ever-‐smaller increments as swimmers approach a theoretical limit to human performance. Unusually steep improvements in time tend to point to some form of recently introduced “bias” to the contests. Such a jump occurred in 2008 to the extent that those swim times cannot even be used in formulating the model. Earlier recognizable performance “blips” were caused by documented steroid use (1976) and or the unfortunate Olympic Boycott of 1980. In 2008, 65 percent of all of the Olympic swim events were faster than predicted. For the previous ﬁve Olympics combined, only 15 percent of the events were faster (or slower) than our model.
Background: The model crunches the fastest eight male and female performances in Olympic swimming events from 1972 through 2004. Using the mean time across all years, a best-‐ﬁt power curve was calculated for each swim event. These equations were used to predict the ﬁnish times for the 2008 Olympics and will be used again to predict swim times for the current Summer Games. The controversial suits were worn in the Olympic trials in 2008 and also in the Olympics. They were shown to increase swimmers’ buoyancy, particularly with the male swimmers, and this is forbidden by the board that governs international swimming competition. Stager still expects to see some exciting races and he said some records could fall. As an example, intense competition between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte could result in records. Based on their model and swimmers’ times posted at the Olympic trials earlier this summer, other U.S. swimmers such as Matt Grevers, Allison Schmitt, Dana Vollmer, and Missy Franklin all have shots at records. But swimmers from other countries also appear to be competitive (many of whom train in the US) and could give the USA swimmers tough competition for the gold. Stager and colleagues can be reached at Indiana University’s Counsilman Center 812-‐856-‐7160 and or [email protected].
* Are entered with a time faster than predicted. All-‐time top 8 competitors are favored to medal based upon our mathematical projections and the swimmers’ best performances.
** For more information, please see: Brammer, C., Stager, J., & Tanner, D. (2012): Beyond the 'high-‐tech' suits: Predicting 2012 Olympic Swim Performances, Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science.