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Assessing Time Trends in Sex Differences in Swimming and Running

Wainer, Howard; Njue, Catherine; Palmer, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Athletics, Sex Differences, Running, Swimming


Men and women perform at different levels in athletics. In swimming and running races men are almost always faster. Over the past century the differences observed between men and women have been shrinking. This shrinkage seems to have been more dramatic at longer distances. In this article the authors examine the time trends in these differences by event through examination of world records and Olympic performances. The authors show that in running, using one sensible measure, women seem to be nearer men's performances in sprints than in distance races; in swimming the reverse is true. This measure provides better predictive inferences than the typical alternatives.

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