Why do Olympic records keep tumbling?

August 12th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 12 (IANS) Why are Olympic and world records being shattered regularly? A study shows that it is not because today’s athletes are stronger than their predecessors but because of better equipment, facilities and training, and a larger number of competitors. Michael Joyner of Rochester-based Mayo Clinic, who has carried out a study of marathon and long distance results over the past 125 years, says athletes have been showing record-breaking performances since the 1920s.

To give an example, he says today’s men and women marathoners are as fast as the athletes competing in the 10,000-metre race in the late 1940s.

Records are being shattered because of a combination of harder training, better technology and more competition today, he said in a TV interview here Monday.

He said technologically advanced swimming suits, which reduce hydrodynamic drag, helped contestants shave fractions of a second off their times.

In the past, Joyner said, athletes trained just three or four days a week for fearing of overexerting themselves, and daily practice became the norm only in the mid-20th century.

He said competitors from the developing world have only quickened the rate of shattering of records. Athletes from Eastern Europe and Africa started challenging the dominance of the US, Western Europe and Japan in the mid-20th century, leading to better performances.

To give an example, he said till about 40 years ago the Americans would win almost all the swimming medals. But when other nations built pools, their swimmers started challenging the Americans.

Because of their short and intense careers, he added, today’s athletes tend to be a lot more focussed than in the past. Since sport has become a means of livelihood for them, he said, they are devoting much more time to training these days.

Media focus and commercial interests such as endorsements are also contributing to record-breaking performances now, he added.

According to Joyner, records will keep tumbling with advances in training equipment and better facilities.

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