What Makes A 2016 Olympic Champion?

This article was originally posted in 2014, before the World Championships. In honor of the official beginning of “Olympic season,” we thought it would be good to revisit the projections and see which have changed. On a first glance, it seems unlikely that anybody is going 46.87 in the men’s 100 free, and perhaps not even 47.25. The women’s 100 back prediction, however, that once seemed impossible is now more-and-more likely with Emily Seebohm having gone under 59 seconds 10 times in 2015.

I bet you thought you were going to click on an inspirational, Olivier Poirier-Leroy article and learn how to be more awesome, or how to crush walls (literally and figuratively) with your brain.

You were wrong. This is a straight-up, Braden-Keith-style, swim-nerds, numbers post about a couple of guys named Joshua Neuloh and Thomas Kothe who have created a predictive model that they call “Swimnex“.

Among the touted success of this model at the 2012 Olympic Games included predicting the World Record race by Cameron can der Burgh within a difference of three-tenths of a second and forecasting the way through the stages of the women’s 50 free by an “average error of just .01%.”

For 2016, Neuloh, the mathematician behind the project, has ramped-up his prediction and used over 600,000 calculations to make predictions for the 2016 Olympics in the following headings:

  • Champion
  • Medalist
  • Finalist
  • Semi-Finalist

For each event.

He has also predicted that 6 new World Records will be broken, all on the women’s side:

  • 100 back (57.90)
  • 100 fly (55.57)
  • 400 IM (4:27.38)
  • 800 free relay (7:40.20)
  • 400 medley relay (3:50.30)

While Neuloh wouldn’t reveal his full methodology, he looked at thousands of race results and tried to find patterns and account for influencing factors, including advancements in suit technology and the new starting block (which they found to have no significance).

In total, the models predict 14 World Records between now and the end of the Rio Olympics. The test will be whether or not Neuloh’s assumptions will create a better predictive success rate than our subjective assumptions. In the next few weeks, we will put together our own predictions for the 2016 Olympics, and let those sit in a time capsule to see who came out better just under two years out.

See the full predictions from Swimnex below:

SwimNex Table

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6 years ago

With Campbell sisters/Ranomi/Sjostrum/Manuel in the sprint freestyle races and Ledecky in the freestyle distances, those “champion” times are a bit slow in my opinion for female freestyle races based on what we’ve seen since 2012. Breaststroke times also look a bit slow. But thanks for providing swimswam! Always fun to speculate.

Reply to  Swam
6 years ago

I agree.And 3.31 in freestyle relay?I think will be faster, put two seconds faster.

Mens sprint freestyle(50/100) is a bit of a mistery.Sometimes there is a jump, other stagnate… If the winner will be a 46.8, i would put the young guns as favorites to do it(McEvoy,Zetao,Santana…).
A 21.19 in 50 free?Seriously, i think maybe 8 could be put in the mix to do that(in 2016).From the well know Cielo-Manaudou to Ben Proud.

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago

I disagree in the case of the 200 breast. Right now there just are too many people really close to the WR. This year we had 5 people go 2:07 something, which excludes Gyurta, Koseki and Yamaguchi. When one person swims a fast time then it’s because they are a truly great swimmer. If two people swim a great time (ie Lochte and Phelps 1:54 in the 200 IM) it’s because we’re lucky to have two greats at the same time competing. If 3 people are dominating, maybe they just all are good. But when you have the top 8 all-time in textile swimming at the same time in the same year, that’s statistically unlikely. When that happens it says… Read more »

Reply to  mcgillrocks
5 years ago

Re the W50FS, there MAY be 3 current sub24sec women in the field (C1, Sjostrom, & Halsall) but none of them broke 24 in 2015. One hasn’t for a couple of years. The current world champion (C2) has yet to break 24.

Whilst I will readily agree that this event is likely to be faster in Rio & require sub24 to win (and possibly medal); a new WR is a less surer bet. Steffan’s WR (23.73) was a “suits” time and no one has really been near it since.

6 years ago

That winning time on the men’s 100m free is ludicrously fast. However, it would be awesome to see.

6 years ago

Some of the times here could in fact be valid predictions, however so many of these times are not excatly thought through in my opinion. He states that Katie Ledecky who has broken numerous world records this past year will add 3 seconds too her best time in the Olympic in the 800 and add a full second to her best time in the 400, and she still has another year to improve upon those times. As well as the 400 IM time that they predict being a world record the only person that has gone close to that time besides Phelps is Lochte and we all know Lochte wont be making an appearance in that event. So unless we… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago

It was my understanding that World Championships and Olympics could no longer be held outside. I believe this was after lightning in Rome 2009

northern sue
Reply to  Braden Keith
5 years ago

While I reluctantly agree that even Ledecky will plateau at some point, I guess I don’t think these predictions are attempting to reflect a possible plateau. Assuming I am understanding right, this is an old article, so to me it speaks more to Katie’s astonishing drop in the 800WR since this article was written. Even an attempt to predict future times failed to predict an 8:07 swim. To me this article is yet more evidence that Katie’s swim in Kazan was off the scale, at least off the scale we had all been using to think about 800 times.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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