Analysis of Male and Female Olympic Swimmers in the 100-Meter Events

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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The performance of male and female swimmers (N = 397) competing in the preliminary heats of the four 100-meter swimming events during the Seoul Olympic Games was videotaped and later analyzed to determine stroke rate (SR) and stroke length (SL). These data were combined with age, height, and final time (FT) values for statistical analyses which included the relationships among these variables, comparison of male and female performance, and assessment of differences in the four events. The results revealed the following ranges of correlations between SR and SL (rs from −0.65 to −0.90), SL and FT (rs from −0.32 to −0.80), height and SL (0.19 to 0.58), and age and FT (-0.16 to −.051). The factor of SL was identified as the dominant feature of successful swimming performance. The men were older and taller, had longer stroke lengths and higher stroke rates (two of four events), and swam faster than the women. The differences in final times across the four events (freestyle fastest, breaststroke slowest) were due to specific combinations of SR and SL, with neither parameter being consistently dominant.

The authors are with the Biomechanics Laboratory at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.