The New York Times website has three great videos by Kevin Quealy and Graham Roberts that compare all medalists for the men’s 100-meter freestyle, men’s 100-meter sprint, and men’s long jump from Athens 1896 to London 2012. It’s a great look at how world records have changed over the last century as better nutrition and training have led to faster speeds.
Compare the winner of the 100-meter Freestyle in 1896, Alfréd Hajós of Hungary, to the winner in 2012, Nathan Adrian from the United States. Hajós won his race with a time of 1:22.2, whereas Adrian clinched the gold with a 47.52, almost forty seconds faster. At the rate that swimming speeds are increasing, I wonder when times will eventually level off and reach its peak. I mean, it’s not possible to do the 100-meter freestyle in under forty seconds, right? Then again, I’m not sure if the world even expected to see times under fifty seconds a few decades ago.
Anyway, check those videos out because they are really well produced. There’s also some spiffy graphs on the pages to show you just how far our athletes have come.