Testing The Post Olympic Hangover Theory

by Andrew Mering 4

July 23rd, 2017 College, International, News

2017 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

A few months ago I wrote an article for SwimSwam Magazine about the existence of a post Olympic hangover in world championship times.

A quick summary: I grabbed all World Championships and Olympics from 1996-2016 and excluded 2008 and 2009 (due to the super suits). Overall, men’s average finals times improved .18% per year and women’s average finals times improved .21% per year. However, in post Olympic years, time got slower instead. Finals times averaged about .2% slower than the year before in post Olympic years. The theory is that top swimmers retiring or taking time off after the Olympics explains this “hangover.”

Average Time in a Men’s Final vs Average Time in 1996 Final

Average Time in a Women’s Final vs Average Time in 1996 Final

The existence of a post Olympic hangover is pretty clear in the existing data. 4 post Olympic years with 100s of swimmers across finals in all events is enough to establish a significant trend. However, it’s one thing to find a trend in past data and another to see that trend borne out in the results of meet that hasn’t happened yet. Correctly predicting future results is truly the best test of a theory.

To that end I calculated the projected average finals times for each Olympic event assuming that the post Olympic hangover is a real effect and assuming that there is no hangover and that the results will follow the overall long term trend. After the meet is over, I’ll check back and see which prediction does better (or see if they’re both way off base).

 

Event Gender Time Change From 1996 to 2016 Average 2016 Finals Time Average 1996 Finals Time Projected 2017 Finals Average With “Hangover” Projected 2017 Finals Average without “Hangover”
100 Fly Women -5.4% 56.64 59.9 56.75 56.52
100 Back Women -5.4% 58.86 1:02.2 58.98 58.74
400 Medley Relay Women -4.9% 3:55.74 4:07.76 3:56.21 3:55.25
200 Breast Men -4.8% 2:07.81 2:14.31 2:08.07 2:07.58
200 Back Men -4.8% 1:55.09 2:00.88 1:55.32 1:54.89
100 Back Men -4.5% 52.68 55.18 52.79 52.59
50 Free Women -4.5% 24.23 25.37 24.28 24.18
100 Free Women -4.2% 53.05 55.37 53.16 52.94
100 Free Women -4.2% 53.05 55.37 53.16 52.94
200 IM Women -4.2% 2:09.92 2:15.6 2:10.18 2:09.65
200 Free Women -4.0% 1:55.12 1:59.95 1:55.35 1:54.88
100 Breast Men -4.0% 58.99 1:01.46 59.11 58.88
400 Medley Relay Men -4.0% 3:30.96 3:39.72 3:31.38 3:30.58
200 IM Men -3.9% 1:57.13 2:01.87 1:57.36 1:56.92
800 Free Relay Women -3.7% 7:48.93 8:07.05 7:49.86 7:47.94
100 Breast Women -3.7% 1:06.47 1:09.02 1:06.6 1:06.33
400 Free Relay Women -3.7% 3:34.64 3:42.88 3:35.07 3:34.19
200 Back Women -3.7% 2:07.85 2:12.69 2:08.1 2:07.58
400 IM Women -3.6% 4:33.15 4:43.48 4:33.7 4:32.58
200 Breast Women -3.6% 2:22.37 2:27.73 2:22.66 2:22.07
50 Free Men -3.5% 21.67 22.47 21.72 21.63
100 Fly Men -3.4% 51.28 53.08 51.38 51.19
800 Free Women -3.1% 8:18.68 8:34.89 8:19.67 8:17.63
400 Free Relay Men -3.1% 3:12.38 3:18.6 3:12.77 3:12.04
200 Fly Women -3.1% 2:06.4 2:10.47 2:06.65 2:06.13
800 Free Relay Men -3.1% 7:05.65 7:19.26 7:06.5 7:04.88
400 Free Women -2.8% 4:03.08 4:10 4:03.56 4:02.57
400 Free Men -2.7% 3:44.24 3:50.57 3:44.69 3:43.84
100 Free Men -2.7% 47.96 49.31 48.05 47.87
200 Fly Men -2.7% 1:54.77 1:57.97 1:55 1:54.57
200 Free Men -2.7% 1:45.48 1:48.4 1:45.69 1:45.29
1500 Free Men -2.6% 14:46.81 15:10.29 14:48.58 14:45.21
400 IM Men -2.5% 4:11.22 4:17.6 4:11.72 4:10.77

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4 Comments on "Testing The Post Olympic Hangover Theory"

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Steve Nolan

This was confuuuuusing.

So you basically plotted all WC and Olympic final times from ’96 (barring ’08 and ’09) and made a trendline. You then saw that the WCs immediately following an Olympic year were slower than the trend predicted?

The charts are harder than they have to be, too – I’d have the x-axis ticked off at every 4 years, so it’s easier to see where the Olympic years are. Looking at those, it looks like the drops in Olympic years are also slightly higher than the trendline would predict?

masters swimmer

Well, after reading about day 1 finals, I’d have to say this is better than the Olympics. What an amazing session of racing!