Analysis of World Records and Gender: Predict World Record Trends through Regressional Analysis

From SwimSwam contributor Chris O’Linger, an assistant swim coach at the University of the Incarnate Word. (Featured Image: Michael Phelps)

For as long as there have been World Records for competitive swimming, many people have wanted to know if the females will ever catch up to the males. There have been several reasons listed for why the genders stay separated by time, and many of them are obvious, but in today’s age, we have seen several female athletes attempt to compete with the men, some even successfully.

I recently ran a study comparing the female World Record progressions to the male World Record progressions over a sixty-year period, only to find no overly significant results for the females “closing the gap”, so to speak. However, a by-product that caught my attention from my correlational and regressional analyses of male and female World Records in the same time period. Upon the interpretation of my findings, I found that there was no significant results between the mean comparisons of male and female World Records set in any of the time periods I had analyzed.

After feeling disparaged that I had not found backing for my hypothesis pertaining to females catching up to males, I began wondering if I could use these correlations and regressions to (somewhat) accurately predict the times of one gender when comparing it to the results of another. To explain my work synoptically, I will display my findings and interpretations of the current (2013) long course World Records. The data set will be shown first, the analytical tests run, and an application process to show its effectiveness.

World Records in Seconds

F WR M WR DIFF
50 FR

23.73

20.91

2.82

100 FR

52.07

46.91

5.16

200 FR

112.98

102

10.98

400 FR

239.15

220.07

19.08

800 FR

493.86

452.12

41.74

1500 FR

936.53

871.02

65.51

50 BA

27.06

24.04

3.02

100 BA

58.12

51.94

6.18

200 BA

124.06

111.92

12.14

50 BR

29.48

26.67

2.81

100 BR

64.35

58.46

5.89

200 BR

139.11

127.01

12.1

50 FL

25.07

22.43

2.64

100 FL

55.98

49.82

6.16

200 FL

121.81

111.51

10.3

200 IM

126.15

114

12.15

400 IM

268.43

243.84

24.59

400 FR

211.72

188.24

23.48

800 FR Relay

462.06

418.44

43.51

400 M Relay

232.05

207.28

24.77

As you can see, the left column contains the female World Records, the middle column contains the male World Records, and the right column contains the difference between the male and female World Records in seconds. The male records come to a mean of 173.437 seconds with a standard deviation of 216.031, and the female records come to a mean of 190.1885 seconds with a standard deviation of 200.059.

When I ran a comparison of means analysis (an independent samples t-test), I found that the difference between female and male World Records were statistically similar with regards to every event, meaning that the difference between the times for every event were equal when the length of each race is accounted for, regardless of the stroke/strokes involved. Afterwards, I ran a Pearson test of analysis, finding that the times between male and female World Records concerning all events are correlated to the extremely high degree of nearly 97% (r = 0.967).

Prediction is a terrible word to use when aerobic and human domains of performance are concerned, but the high level of correlation across the board allowed me to run a standard linear-fit regressional analysis which demonstrates a level of confidence to predict across correlated variables. What I found was a prediction rate above 99% (b-coefficient=0.991).

To be perfectly clear, this does not allow I, nor anyone else, the ability to predict exactly what any given athlete will do, but if the trend differences between male and female World Records sticks in the future as it has over the past sixty years, the time drops of one gender should very well project (with almost perfect confidence—99%) the time drops of the opposing gender.

There has been much research suggesting explanations for why female World Records have been slightly slower than males, but an evolving field is beginning to explain the trend similarities among both genders. I extend a sincere apology to all of the females in the audience as research shows that the odds of female World Records catching the male World Records is minimal, but have faith in the fact that history demonstrates a trend from inhibiting these differences from extending any further than in current times.

Chris O' Linger, assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

Chris O’ Linger, assistant coach, Incarnate Word swimming & diving. (Image courtesy of UIW)

I look forward to continually tracking this progress as the sport’s training methods and interventions continue to evolve. We have reached a pivotal point of technological integration and philosophical change in the past fifteen to twenty years in relation to all aspects of training and performing, and the fact is, we may be entering the fastest couple of classes of all time into college swimming, and the World scene has become more competitive. These World Records should continue to be reset, and it would be interesting to see if either gender will be able to break the trend.

About Chris O’Linger via UIW

O’Linger is an assistant coach for the Incarnate Word swimming and diving program.  He swam collegiately at both the University of Florida and University of Tampa.  He earned a degree in social psychology from Tampa.  He is studying kinesiology.

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MRP
7 years ago

Very interesting application of the t-test. Nicely done math, nicely written article.

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Reply to  MATHISADANGEROUSDRUG
7 years ago

Do you believe that this correlation is not significant?

Ben
7 years ago

First off I want to applaud the use of math/science in swimming. It is something the sport is severely lacking. However I have one suggestion: Examining the mean time and standard deviation for the events does not make sense. This gives incredible weight to the longer events like the 800/1500. You should be using a geometric mean for this as it will normalize the differences between the amount of times it actually takes to do the events. It would also be interesting if you highlighted in red for each event which gender had more recently broken the world record. Based on the above I would guess that it should be about 50/50 but if it was strongly one sided that… Read more »

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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