At this year’s Olympic Games in London numerous world records have been broken. Just when you think people have reached the limits of speed, strength, stamina and skill someone will come along and blast your expectations out of the skies.
Some theorists argue that people are approaching the limit of what can be athletically achieved and you can see their point, I mean you can’t physically expect a man to able to run the 100 meters in much less time than the 9.58 seconds set by Usain Bolt, not unless runners are suddenly allowed to attach jet packs to their backs anyway!
However, in saying that, world records are still being consistently broken, 9 were smashed in just the swimming pool in the first week of London 2012! This feat is even more amazing when you consider the fact that many of the records that were broken were set by swimmers who were wearing the now banned extra-buoyant swimsuits.
Discovery News’ Emily Sohn said: “When one athlete breaks a time barrier, the notion of what’s possible expands for the next.”
Experts say that the reason we continue to break sporting records is down to a number of different things. Part of this is down to technological improvements in training; regimes and methods like those we wrote about a little while ago, including cryotherapy chambers, CVAC Pods and RIPC. There have also been major advances in the equipment used by athletes like lighter bikes or rackets for example.
Another reason for these achievements is that a larger percentage of the population is getting involved in sport. The increased television coverage that sporting events get these days as well as added exposure from new platforms like YouTube and other forms of social media, mean that more youngsters are getting involved.
It also appears that people are starting to train at a younger age and staying with their chosen sport for longer. More people taking part in a sport simply means that there is a bigger chance that those with innate natural talents will be discovered. Improved medicines and treatments means extended careers and in the past injuries that could have ended the career of a professional athlete can now be treated effectively.
According to Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, the mind plays an important role when it comes to overcoming seemingly insurmountable records. He said: “There is almost certainly a species limit in terms of physical capabilities, and I suspect we might be in the range of that… But every time scientists say humans are not going to go any faster, they’ve been shown to be wrong. You can take that one to the bank.”
The increase in professional athletic opportunities is yet another factor in our improved performances. Not too long ago, you could really only make a professional career out of a few sports, like football and basketball. Now however, swimmers, gymnasts and other athletes can make a living out of their chosen sport. This means that they can put all their energy into training as opposed to trying to fit it in around a full-time job.
Over the last 75 years there have been dramatic improvements in almost every single sport, recently though, that progress has slowed down a little and that is what has led experts to state that we might have reached the pinnacle of our athletic abilities. Some of these experts have even come up with numbers that they think people can achieve.
Using calculations of power output, oxygen use, heart function and other factors, they have said that there could possibly be a 1.58 time for the marathon (a five minute improvement on the current record) and 9.48 seconds for the men’s 100m. But if athletes continue to smash records like they have been, then these calculations could yet prove to be beaten too!