Watching the London 2012 Olympics, I noticed something – there’s not a lot of World Records that have been broken. Though the Games is still ongoing, you can’t help but wonder–are the world records just too tough to beat, or are participants just not so focused on setting a new world record?
“A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on the way to the London Olympics: Athletes stopped breaking world records,” an intriguing line from an article on ESPN titled “The Great Stagnation.”
The article went on to compare the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, stating that before the 2008 Olympics began, athletes preparing to compete were breaking world records. But leading up to the 2012 Olympics, it seemed athletes weren’t interested in breaking them anymore. The article went on to say the “World records are now decades old in classic men’s Olympic sports such as the long jump (1991), shot put (1990) and discus throw (1986).”
An interesting study done by GE also notes a significant decline in breaking world records, but what their study also showed is breaking world records come in clusters.
“World records come in waves, similar to longer periods of economic boom punctuated by shorter recessions. Many of the recent records were set by women in disciplines like pole vaulting and weightlifting,” the GE Report ‘Where do World Records Come From? Olympic Data Visualization Crunches a Century’s Worth of Record Breaking Data’ stated.“In 1999, athletes broke 112 records in summer sports, the most is a single year. Nine years later, in 2008, they broke 94 records in summer events, the second highest count in one year. There has been a short drought since. But if history is any guide, we may be on the verge of a new bumper crop.”
But what are world records?
A world record, according to Wikipedia, is usually the best global performance ever recorded and verified in a specific skill or sport. These athletic records are ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and the Guinness World Records and the website RecordSetter collate and publishes world records about almost anything from sports, to largest pizza, longest necktie, and even the song that topped the charts the longest.
Are you on drugs?
We’re all expecting athletes to break world records but when they do, others are quick to judge, “He/She must be on something, that’s just not possible.” Take for example China’s Ye Shiwen who won gold and broke the world record with 4:28.43 in the 400m medley. She swam the last 100m in just 28.93 seconds – and this is what aroused suspicion. American John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said the 16-year-old’s performance was “suspicious” and said it brought back “a lot of awful memories” of the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith’s race in the same event at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
“The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable’, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” Leonard stated. “That Shiwenlast 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of the 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta.”
No wonder athletes aren’t too eager to break any records. Would you do your best if in the end you’d get accused of using drugs to improve your performance? That’s just unfair. The point is, if druggies can still slip by their watchful eyes, they should consider changing the way they test athletes before they compete or test them after they compete to eliminate all these suspicions.