Valérie Thibault, Marion Guillaume, Geoffroy Berthelot, Nour El Helou, Karine Schaal, Laurent Quinquis, Hala Nassif, Muriel Tafflet, Sylvie Escolano, Olivier Hermine and Jean-François. Toussaint
© Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2010) 9, 214 - 223
Sex is a major factor influencing best performances and world records. Here the evolution of the difference between men and women's best performances is characterized through the analysis of 82 quantifiable events since the beginning of the Olympic era. For each event in swimming, athletics, track cycling, weightlifting and speed skating the gender gap is fitted to compare male and female records. It is also studied through the best performance of the top 10 performers in each gender for swimming and athletics. A stabilization of the gender gap in world records is observed after 1983, at a mean difference of 10.0% ± 2.94 between men and women for all events. The gender gap ranges from 5.5% (800-m freestyle, swimming) to 18.8% (long jump). The mean gap is 10.7% for running performances, 17.5% for jumps, 8.9% for swimming races, 7.0% for speed skating and 8.7% in cycling. The top ten performers' analysis reveals a similar gender gap trend with a stabilization in 1982 at 11.7%, despite the large growth in participation of women from eastern and western countries, that coincided with later- published evidence of state-institutionalized or individual doping. These results suggest that women will not run, jump, swim or ride as fast as men.