Outer Limits?

This week my Scoop.It aggregator brought in numerous links to the AFP report Are athletic records reaching their limits?
The report notes the work of Geoffroy Berthelot.
Geoffroy and his colleagues published a paper in PLoS ONE in 2008. In the paper they discuss The Citius End: World Records Progression Announces the Completion of a Brief Ultra-Physiological Quest. They observe:

World records have now reached 99%, and, present conditions prevailing, half of all WR will not be improved by more than 0,05% in 2027. Our model, which may be used to compare future athletic performances or assess the impact of international antidoping policies, forecasts that human species’ physiological frontiers will be reached in one generation. This will have an impact on the future conditions of athlete training and on the organization of competitions. It may also alter the Olympic motto and spirit.

One of the Figures in Geoffroy’s paper identifies the decrease in relative improvement and “is representative of the growing difficulty to improve previously established world record values”.

The AFP report notes that:

Sometimes what makes the difference is not genes but technology, like the full-body swimsuits that saw an unprecedented 25 records broken in 2008 and 47 in 2009, before they were banned.

The report links to Mark Denny’s research into the Limits to running speed in dogs, horses and humans published in 2008.
Mark concludes his paper thus:

The likelihood that there are limits to speed should not diminish the awe with which we view the performance of dogs, horses and humans. For example, a women running the estimated absolute fastest speed for 100m would have beaten the world’s fastest male in 1955, a feat that would have astounded contemporary spectators. The predicted maximum speed (5.83ms–1) for a man running a marathon (42.2 km) would have been fast enough to beat the great Emil Zatopek in his world’s best 10km race in 1954. Those in the stands watching that race could not have imagined someone besting Zatopek by 16s, and then simply continuing at that winning pace for another 32.2km.

One of the links my aggregator identified was from the Jamaica Observer. As I was reading their take on the AFP release I noticed an intriguing reference to Classy Prospect ready to dance for Reggae Trophy. It was not a discussion of Usain Bolt (he had missed a church service).
Photo Credits
Henrietta Paxton


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