World Record Analysis 100m Freestyle Past and Future

The history of 100m Freestyle World Record Swimming goes back to 1905 with Zoltan Halmay recording a time of 1:05.8.  The woman records started in 1908 with Martha Gerstung recording a time of 1:35.0.

It is now 2014 and the chart below plots the record offical world records to-date for the 100m Freestyle for both men and women in a 50m long course swimming pool. The simple chart tells a story.


The most obvious trend is a downward direction in times recorded.  Bigger reductions in time further in the past and plateauing out of time since the 1980’s with a small dip around 2008 with the new swim suit technology. It is interesting that the reduction of male and female times follow a similar pattern albeit the female times are slower. But what about looking to the future?

Future Analysis
The chart on the right hand side projects/predict future world record times based on statistics. In this case by applying the LMS (least means squares).  This standard or the most basic of statistical approaches shows the trend of plateauing time reduction continues, but in a slight downward direction and that the difference between male and female world records has all but disappeared over the next 10 year.  I expect if the chart was extend we would reach that day where women over take male times.  Can statistic predict the real future?  Time can only tell.  Given advances in swim suit technology and currently females are allowed to cover more of their body then over the longterm this would aid faster time improvements as an potential explanation.  Might be women discover better ways to train etc.  Other statistical models have give similar outcomes for distance runners.  Some statisticians believe times will never reach zero thus LMS approach is misleading.  However, those approaches need to set the minimum absolute time a swimmer could not go below and that becomes a subjective choice.  All we know is that as more data is recorded, world records, we can review how well the statistical models are.

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