Athletes are stronger and faster than they used to be. Equipment and training is better than it used to be. That’s why the old records have been broken. You have to wonder will humans ever get to the point where breaking records simply will not be possible?
Researchers have figured out that even if athletes or technology never got any better, records would still get broken. Unlike the athletes of the original Olympic games, the athletes of today are paid professionals. “Extreme-value statistics” is the mathematical term. It tells us that better bikes, better swimsuits, chance and achievement all play a part in record-breaking.
Records tend to be broken in spurts, usually around times of major innovation, like the new swimwear fabrics that reduce drag in the water. But as these technological improvements level out over time, the record-breaking slows down as well.
Researchers in Paris looked at 3,000 world records, going all the way back to the first Olympic games in 1896, and over time, they saw world record-breaking slow in progression. So, have athletes reached their biomechanical limits? Only time will tell.