Up until the late 1970s, the winning times in the 100 meter freestyle at the Olympics had shown consistent and significant improvement from one Olympics to the next. But over the last 30 years or so, the winning times have gone relatively unchanged. In fact, the winning time for the men in 2004 (48.2s) was only 0.4 seconds faster than the winning time 16 years earlier in 1988 (48.6s).
The one exception in recent years was the 2008 Olympics in which times improved significantly thanks in large part to suits that have since been ruled illegal.
Sure, we will still see an improvement of a few hundredths of a second here and maybe a tenth of a second there. But that could be a better start, or improved technique under the water, or a better turn. But ultimately, swimmers have been swimming at an almost identical top speed for close to 30 years, suggesting we have pushed the human body to the limit in the pool…
Data via DatabaseOlympics.com
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