Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
from September 2014
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 05, 541 - 547

Research article
Prediction Versus Reality: The Use of Mathematical Models to Predict Elite Performance in Swimming and Athletics at the Olympic Games
Timothy Heazlewood 
Author Information
School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia

Timothy Heazlewood
✉ School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, NSW, Australia
Publish Date
Received: --
Accepted: --
Published (online): 15-12-2006
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A number of studies have attempted to predict future Olympic performances in athletics and swimming based on trends displayed in previous Olympic Games. Some have utilised linear models to plot and predict change, whereas others have utilised multiple curve estimation methods based on inverse, sigmoidal, quadratic, cubic, compound, logistic, growth and exponential functions. The non linear models displayed closer fits to the actual data and were used to predict performance changes 10’s, 100’s and 1000’s of years into the future. Some models predicted that in some events male and female times and distances would crossover and females would eventually display superior performance to males. Predictions using mathematical models based on pre-1996 athletics and pre-1998 swimming performances were evaluated based on how closely they predicted sprints and jumps, and freestyle swimming performances for both male and females at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. The analyses revealed predictions were closer for the shorter swimming events where men’s 50m and women’s 50m and 100m actual times were almost identical to predicted times. For both men and women, as the swim distances increased the accuracy of the predictive model decreased, where predicted times were 4.5-7% faster than actual times achieved. The real trends in some events currently displaying performance declines were not foreseen by the mathematical models, which predicted consistent improvements across all athletic and swimming events selected for in this study.

Key words: Swimming, athletics, olympic games, mathematical functions, extrapolation

           Key Points
  • Prediction of future Olympic performance based on previous performance trends.
  • Application of non-linear mathematical equations resulting in better fitting models.
  • Application of mathematical predictive models to the Olympic sports of athletics and swimming.
  • Accuracy of mathematical models in predicting sprint events in running and swimming.
  • A research approach to predict future Olympic performance and set future performance standards that could be applied to other sports.
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