Int J Sports Med 2007; 28(12): 1012-1017
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-965088
Training & Testing

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Are There Limits to Swimming World Records?

A. M. Nevill1 , G. P. Whyte2 , R. L. Holder3 , M. Peyrebrune4
  • 1School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
  • 2Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • 3Department of Primary Care and General Practice, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • 4English Institute of Sport, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Further Information

Publication History

accepted after revision January 9, 2007

Publication Date:
29 May 2007 (online)


The purpose of this article was to investigate whether swimming world records are beginning to plateau and whether the inequality between men and women's swimming performances is narrowing, similar to that observed in running world records. A flattened “S-shaped curve” logistic curve is fitted to 100-m, 200-m, and 400-m front-crawl world-record swimming speeds for men and women from 1 May 1957 to the present time, using the non-linear least-squares regression. The inequality between men and women's world records is also assessed using the ratio, Women's/Men's world record speeds. The results confirm that men and women's front-crawl swimming world-record speeds are plateauing and the ratio between women's and men's world records has remained stable at approximately 0.9. In conclusion, the logistic curves provide evidence that swimming world-record speeds experienced a period of “accelerated” growth/improvements during the 1960 - 1970s, but are now beginning to plateau. The period of acceleration corresponded with numerous advances in science and technology but also coincided with the anecdotal evidence for institutionalised doping. Also noteworthy, however, is the remarkably consistency in the women's/men's world record ratio, circa 0.9, similar to those observed in middle and long distance running performances. These finding supports the notion that a 10 % gender inequality exists for both swimming and running.


Prof. Alan M. Nevill

School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure
University of Wolverhampton

Gorway Road, Walsall

WS1 3BD Wolverhampton

United Kingdom

Phone: + 0190 232 28 38

Fax: + 0190 232 28 94

Email: [email protected]