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2016 Olympic Swim Predictions
Counsilman Center at Indiana University, Bloomington
What can we expect to happen at the 2016 Rio Olympic Aquatic Stadium in Rio? Who knows? Will there be multiple world records as in Beijing? Unlikely. But statistical models based on the performance times of the Olympic finalists for each Olympics since 1988 provide some insight. Over time, swim times incrementally improve...but in ever-smaller increments, as swimmers approach a theoretical limit to human performance. This is as it should be. Unfortunately, unusually steep improvements in time tend to point to some form of introduced "bias" to the contests. Such a jump occurred in 2008 with the introduction of "float suits" to the extent that those swim times can't even be used in formulating the current model. Earlier recognizable performance "blips" were caused by documented steroid use (1976) and or the unfortunate Olympic Boycott of 1980. "In 2008, 65 percent of all of the Olympic swim events were faster than predicted," Stager said. "For the previous five Olympics combined, only 9 percent of the events were faster (or slower) than our model." The effects of the "hi tech" suits were more than obvious!
Background: The model crunches the fastest eight male and female performances in Olympic swimming events from some combination of years 1988 through 2012. Using the mean time across all years, a best-fit power curve is calculated for each swim event. These equations are used to predict the finish times for the 2016 Olympics. Based on our model and swimmers times posted at the Olympic trials earlier this summer, many U.S. swimmers should do well. But swimmers from other countries appear to be catching up...if not exceeding performances of the US swimmers and could give the USA swimmers tough competition for the gold.
Swimmers' names (asterisk & highlighted & listed within the "Top 8 Column") are those favored to medal based upon our mathematical projections (and the swimmers' most recent performances). Several Russian athletes may be banned as a result of IOC declarations pertaining to doping (indicated by an "!")
2012 Olympic Swim Predictions
The interpretation of performance trends using compiled results of athletic competitions dates back to the end of the 19th century, presumably coincident with the start of the modern Olympic Games. Today, because of the easy and nearly instantaneous access to competition results, there is a renewed interest in understanding the nature and prevalence of outstanding performances, particularly as they relate to Olympic and World records. For example, a real-time comparison of an athlete’s performance to the world record performance is commonly used to capture spectators’ interest. Further, new analytic techniques to evaluate the success of training regimes for individual athletes, team performances, and even national sport agendas are becoming commonplace.
From the scientific perspective, the analysis of athletic performance provides an illustration of the progress of man’s peak performance. Factors affecting performance can then be identified, and our knowledge of how to improve athletic performance expands. For instance, advances in technology and athletic nutrition over the last 25 years may have led to acceleration in performance improvement. Any significant change in the performance trend represents a bias, favorable or not. This, identifying potential bias in athletic performance, is the primary focus of the current study.
Brammer, C.L., Stager, J.M., & Tanner, D.A. (2012). Beyond the “High-Tech” Suits: Predicting 2012 Olympic Swim Performances, Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 16:3, 183-193.
Stager, J.M., Brammer, C.L., Tanner, D.A. (2010). Identification of a bias in the natural progression of swim performance. In P. Kjendlie, R. Stallman, & J. Cabri (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine Swimming XI (pp. 294-296). Champaign: Human Kinetics.