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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Fast Are Women Relative To Men In Swimming?

Photos of the female ice swimmers courtesy of Nuala Moore from Murmansk. Article courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We did a comparison of the winning times of the male and female swimmers on the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit and found that the winning male times were 7% on average faster than the winning female times. Fresh water, salt water, rough conditions, calm conditions; it did not matter, the average difference was remarkably and consistently 7%.

We wondered how if this time gap of 7% was any different when comparing top swimmers in the pool, in the ice, and at the Olympics.

This is what we found:

50m Men's Freestyle - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Florent Manaudou 21.57
2, Vladimir Morozov 21.65
3. Bruno Fratus 21.74
or 21.65 seconds on average for the top 3 men of all time in the 50m freestyle

50m Women's Freestyle - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Cate Campbell 24.03
2. Bronte Campbell 24.19
3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo 24.35
or 24.19 seconds on average for the top 3 women of all time in the 50m freestyle

The top men are 11.7% faster than the top women in the 50m freestyle in the pool. In comparison, the top women would have completed 89.4% of their swim when the top men finished.

800m Men's Freestyle - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Lin Zhang 7:32.12 or 452.1 seconds
2. Ous Mellouli 7:35.27 or 455.2 seconds
3. Sun Yang 7:38.57 or 458.5 seconds
or 455.26 seconds on average for the top 3 men of all time in the 800m freestyle (7:35.26)

800m Women's Freestyle - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Katie Ledecky 8:11.00 or 491.0 seconds
2. Rebecca Adlington 8:14.10 or 494.1 seconds
3. Jazmin Carlin 8:15.54 or 495.5 seconds
or 493.53 seconds on average for the top 3 women of all time in the 800m freestyle (8:13.53)

The top men are 8.4% faster than the top women in the 800m freestyle in the pool. In comparison, the top women would have completed 92.2% of their swim when the top men finished.

In the ice, the relative comparison is as follows:

1 km Men's Ice Swim - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Christof Wandratsch 13:00.52 or 780.5 seconds
2. Albert Sobirov 13:41.25 or 821.2 seconds
3. Henri Kaarma 14:17.01 or 857.0 seconds
or 819.56 seconds on average for the top 3 men of all time in the 1 km ice swim (13:19.56)

1 km Women's Ice Swim - History's Top 3 Best Times
1. Renata Novakova 14:21.82 or 861.8 seconds
2. Elina Makinen 15:12.22 or 912.2 seconds
3. Iveta Novakova 16:27.20 or 987.2 seconds
or 920.4 seconds on average for the top 3 women of all time in the 1 km ice swim (15:20.4)

The top men are 12.3% faster than the top women in a 1000m ice swim. In comparison, the top women would have completed 89.0% of their swim when the top men finished.

Men's Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim - 2008 Beijing Olympics Top 3
Gold: Maarten van der Weijden (Netherlands) 1:51:51.6 or 6,711.6 seconds
Silver: David Davies (Great Britain) 1:51:53.1 or 6,713.1 seconds
Bronze: Thomas Lurz (Germany) 1:51:53.6 or 6713.6 seconds
or 6,712.76 seconds on average for the top 3 men in the 10 km Olympic marathon swim (1:51:52.76)

Women's Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim - 2008 Beijing Olympics Top 3
Gold: Larisa Ilchenko (Russia) 1:59:27.7 or 7,167.7 seconds
Silver: Keri-Anne Payne (Great Britain) 1:59:29.2 or 7,169.2 seconds
Bronze: Cassandra Patten (Great Britain) 1:59:31.0 or 7,171.0 seconds
or 7,169.3 seconds on average for the top 3 women in the 10 km Olympic marathon swim (1:59.29.3)

The top men were 6.8% faster than the top women in the 2008 Olympic 10 km. In comparison, the top women would have completed 93.6% of their swim when the top men finished.

Men's Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim - 2012 London Olympics Top 3
Gold: Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia - 1:49:55.1 or 6,595.1 seconds
Silver: Thomas Lurz of Germany - 1:49:58.5 or 6,598.5 seconds
Bronze: Richard Weinberger of Canada - 1:50:00.3 or 6,600.3 seconds
or 6,597.9 seconds on average for the top 3 men in the 10 km Olympic marathon swim (1:49:57.9)

Women's Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim - 2012 London Olympics Top 3
Gold: Éva Risztov (HUN) 1:57:38.2 or 7,058.2 seconds
Silver: Haley Anderson (USA) 1:57:38.6 or 7,058.6 seconds
Bronze: Martina Grimaldi (ITA) 1:57:41.8 or 7,061.8 seconds
or 7,059.5 seconds on average for the top 3 women in the 10 km Olympic marathon swim (1:57:39.5)

The top men were 6.9% faster than the top women in the 2012 Olympic 10 km. In comparison, the top women would have completed 93.6% of their swim when the top men finished.

Men's 2013 25 km FINA World Championship - Barcelona, Spain
Gold: Thomas Lurz (Germany) 4:47:27.0 or 6,711.6 seconds
Silver: Brian Ryckeman (Belgium) 4:47:27.4 or 6,713.1 seconds
Bronze: Evgeny Drattsev (Russia) 4:47:28.1 or 6713.6 seconds
or 17,247.5 seconds on average for the top 3 men in the 25 km world championship (4:47:27.5)

Women's 2013 25 km FINA World Championship - Barcelona, Spain
Gold: Martina Grimaldi (Italy) 5:07:19.7 or 6,711.6 seconds
Silver: Angela Maurer (Germany) 5:07:19.8 or 6,713.1 seconds
Bronze: Eva Fabian (USA) 5:07:20.4 or 6713.6 seconds
or 18,439.9 seconds on average for the top 3 women in the 25 km world championship (5:07:19.9)

The top men were 6.9% faster than the top women in the 2013 world championship 25 km. In comparison, the top women would have completed 93.5% of their swim when the top men finished.

In summary, the comparative times/speeds are:

50m freestyle: men are 11.7% faster than the women with women completing 89.4% of their swim when the men finish
800m freestyle: men are 8.4% faster than the women with women completing 92.2% of their swim when the men finish
2008 Olympic 10 km: men were 6.8% faster than the women with women completing 93.6% of their swim when the men finish
2012 Olympic 10 km: men were 6.9% faster than the women with women completing 93.6% of their swim when the men finish
2013 world championship 25 km: men are about 6.9% faster than women with women completing 93.5% of their swim when the men finish
1 km ice swim: men are about 12.3% faster than women with women completing 89.0% of their swim when the men finish

If we take out the 1 km ice swim, it appears that the longer the swims are, the relatively closer the top women are to the top men.

If we assume this relative comparison will also hold true for 1 km ice swimming in the future, it is reasonable that the current relative times for ice women will improve rapidly and they will significantly gain on the ice men. In the future, it is quite possible that the men's current gap over women of 12.3% may be reduced to the 7% range.

Nuala Moore predicts, "The times of the females in the ice are amazing. All these young ladies - 18-year-old Renate Novakova of the Czech Republic, 21-year-old Elina Makinen from Finland, and 24-year-old Iveta Novakova, Renate's sister - are only a hair's breath from the giants of the sport. They are all first timers to the International Ice Swimming Association.

Their participation in Murmansk was their first official 1 km event; they will only move forward in leaps and bounds and they will be stronger next time out
."

Renata Novakova studies high school in Pardubice and trains daily. She will win the 2014-2015 Czech Cup as she participated in 18 events this season usually 1000m or 750m in water below 8°C, 4°C, or 2°C every Saturday from October until April. She and her sister Iveta both come from a swimming club in Pardubice, 100 km east from Prague.

Elina Makinen moved to Joensuu in 2012 when she started doing serious ice swimming, gradually gaining better knowledge of the sport. "My team is Joensuun Jääkarhut. I participated in my first competitions in 2014 winning the Finnish Championship in the 25m breaststroke and was a world champion in Rovaniemi in the 25m breaststroke and 25m freestyle.

During wintertime, I go ice swimming about 6 times a week, including two longer distance of 10 minutes or more. The rest are normal short ice swimming of 1-6 minutes. When I am training, I do not go to sauna at all, since I warm up by running. Sauna is a pleasure of free time. Of course, in competitions saunas make the recovery easier. Endurance ice swimming is both mental work, but it is also physically hard. But I push my boundaries forward step-by-step.

I swim with Joensuun Uimaseura swimming team 3 times a week. Ice swimming is interesting because it requires a lot of knowledge about how the body progresses
."

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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