Tuesday, August 12, 2008

World Records

Josh and I were chatting about the breaking of world records the other day. In specific, during the 4x100 mens freestyle relay 4 teams were past the previous world record. We thought it odd that after all these years a world record could be crushed like that. One would expect some humans would reach some sort of limit, at least limiting world record breaking. To satisfy my curiosity I just had to plot the data.


So there it is. The data shows some sort of limit being reached. This last world record has been a bit of a jump, but not significantly more than previous jumps. I actually love the first set of data, from around 1932 to 1954, that is the trend which one would expect.

It seems as if though individuals, or teams come along at times and make sudden changes. This last Olympics may be an example of that. Here is data from the 400 meter medley which Phelps won a few days ago.


Again we see some leveling off of the records. I noted two swimmers and their records just to show the influence of an individual. This shows you a bit of Phelps true skill. He was able to snap the limit of the records and make significant changes, improving year to year on his own records. Interesting.

The data:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_record_progression_4x100_metres_freestyle_relay
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_record_progression_400_metres_medley

2 comments:

Eric Tarnowski said...

Very interesting data. The New York Times had an article that addressed this topic to some degree:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/sports/olympics/12records.html?partner=rssnyt

Generally when I see steps like that in the data I am inclined to suspect that an external factor like technology played a significant role.

E.Jacob said...

I enjoyed the article you linked to. I liked the end best, when they focused on the training techniques and science. I think that has a larger effect than the suits and the pool. Here is a good article describing some advanced analysis techniques.

http://technologyreview.com/Infotech/21260/?a=f