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Thread: Gender Gap in Swimming

  1. #1
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    Gender Gap in Swimming

    Hi All,
    I did some analysis of the Ironman Arizona swim, the 2011 1-Hour Postal Swim results, and the 1-Hour Postal Swim world records.

    This link includes a chart comparing performance between men and women in those events. http://www.watergirl.co/content/how-...r-gap-swimming.

    I'd be interested to hear what you guys have to say on the subject.

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    For the 1-Hour Postal Swim participants, women slow down dramatically between age 50 and 65. Is this related to Title IX? Or do women lose fitness more rapidly than men at that age? If it's the latter, it seems like training could mitigate that. The gap is much narrower among the World Record Holders
    Yes, I think it's related to Title IX and/or older women generally not being seen as serious athletes before the '60s or so. I think child rearing is another factor that complicates things.

    We've seen women like Laura Val and Charlotte Davis age up and demolish the old records. To me that is a strong indication that women do not lose fitness more rapidly then men, but instead we're just seeing that generation of "more athletic" women now entering these age groups.

    I think the wetsuit thing is a little more tricky, but maybe since participants in Ironman tris are typically very fit the difference in body fat percentage between men and women isn't enough to make much difference. Or maybe relatively 'unfit' men are more likely to enter an Ironman than unfit women, thus when looking at the averages the body fat percentages of male and female competitors is similar.
    Last edited by knelson; October 17th, 2011 at 02:18 PM.

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by knelson View Post
    ... I think the wetsuit thing is a little more tricky, but maybe since participants in Ironman tris are typically very fit the difference in body fat percentage between men and women isn't enough to make much difference. ...
    Agree on this. I think top-level Ironman participants are some of the leanest folks around, and they seem to have very similar body proportions as well.


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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Thanks for the comments. I'm not totally convinced on the "lean triathlete" explanation, though. For women, anything less than 10-13% body fat is considered dangerous. Men can go down as far as 2-5% and still be considered healthy. That's an extra 8 pounds of body fat on a 100-lb person.

    I volunteer at a lot of triathlons, including Ironman. I agree that the frontrunners are extremely lean. But the rest of the pack comes in all shapes and sizes--I'm always surprised at how average the 12-17-hour finishers look.

    Here's the next installment. This time, I'm comparing performance by age group. http://www.watergirl.co/content/agin...im-performance

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    This is the last post in the series. Also the most interesting. It compares the affect of aging on Masters Swimmers and Ironman Swim, Bike and Run.

    For triathletes, swimming performance declines faster than cycling. Masters swimmers don't decline much at all.

    http://www.watergirl.co/content/tria...w-down-you-age

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    Very Active Member Rykno's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Not sure Title IX has much to do with women over 50, atleast not currently. I know that it's been around for a while, but it wasn't until the about 1994 that college programs started to be effected by it.

    so I don't think we can truly see the effects of title ix on masters swimming until the 20 somethings of the 90's turn 50yrs old in 2020-2024.

    based on the swimmers I know over 50 I would say that life choices are the common factor behind slowing down.

    did you swim actively until 24 and then not return until 50 because you got a job, married, kids and got involved in scouts, soccer, baseball, etc then you most likely have slowed down.

    did you quit at 22 but kept fit by running, biking, lifting weights and were a sprinter, then you might be able to get back your swim speed.

    did you quit at 22 after 10yrs of distance training for the 500 and 1650 then stop completely with everything and concentrate on family and work and return at 34+ then it will be difficult to get back to the same level for distance swimming.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by Rykno View Post
    Not sure Title IX has much to do with women over 50, atleast not currently. I know that it's been around for a while, but it wasn't until the about 1994 that college programs started to be effected by it.

    so I don't think we can truly see the effects of title ix on masters swimming until the 20 somethings of the 90's turn 50yrs old in 2020-2024.

    based on the swimmers I know over 50 I would say that life choices are the common factor behind slowing down.
    Don't get me started on Title IX - but I think you're looking at this backwards. You seem to be focusing on how colleges decided to respond to Title IX (by cutting men's programs in order to dump resources into football).

    Title IX did affect women's college programs and a huge jump in participation of women in sport across all ages way before 1994. Most women over 50 did not have the opportunities in sports that everyone has now. Consequently, I think a gender gap between older women and men in swimming was probably very well influenced by both lack of opportunity in sports for women and societal attitudes that frowned on women who wanted to be athletes.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    I'm not there yet, but many of my older female swimming buddies also tell me that menopause significantly affects muscle mass and therefore speeds drop off significantly after hitting that point, which happens to be ~50.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by Rykno View Post
    Not sure Title IX has much to do with women over 50, atleast not currently.
    Yeah, well it did when those over 50s were in their teens, and that's the part that is germane to this discussion.

    What we're talking about here is how Title IX and other factors increased the opportunities for women in sports in the '60s and '70s. How can you say college programs weren't affected by Title IX until 1994? Before Title IX there was no requirement for colleges that fielded men's teams to also field women's teams.
    Last edited by knelson; October 26th, 2011 at 09:56 AM.

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    Very Active Member Sojerz's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    I was in HS from 1964-1967 and the sports opportunities for women were very limited - I think just softball and field hockey. The same girls that I swam with in our winter AAU and summer club teams, and would see in the HS hallways, could not swim on the all-boys HS swim team! It was ridiculous and discriminatory. There were clearly old victorian attitudes amongst some adults about what women should and shouldn't be able to do. Still earlier than that in the 1950s, when I swam for a mixed YMCA team, there were Ys in the NYC area where women we not even allowed at all. The civil rights and womens movement changed these attitudes and conditions.

    Title IX made high schools and colleges change. Although it was enacted by Congress in 1972, like other legislation, nothing happened until the regulations were published in 1978 and wiki indicates colleges were still given 3 years more to comply (so effects starting maybe 1981ish??). There have been subsequent supreme court decisions and additional congressional ammendments to Title IX to take us to where we are today. Hopefully many HSs and colleges recognized the inequities some time before they were required to comply in 1981, and began to incorporate women's sport into their progams.

    A 13 or 14 year old women entering HS in about 1981 would now be in her mid-40s, and so perhaps from that age and older, women would have greatly benefited from Title IX.

    My daughter swam on a mixed HS team in about 2000, was Captain and competed with my middle son (she could kick his butt in Fr, but not Br). However, my sister, who is a few years younger than me and was a very good swimmer, did not have the opportunity to even swim in HS. She went to IU and related that at one point Dr. Counsilman spotted her swimming in their pool and asked her to contact the women's coach and go out for the women's team - so I know at least IU had a women's team at that point in the early 70s. She did not have HS coaches, recruiting, etc. to help her and elected not swim further.

    Is there still a gender gap? Others younger than I will have to answer that. As with overcoming most "old-boy" stuff, it will probably take continued effort to conitnue progress.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by Sojerz View Post
    A 13 or 14 year old women entering HS in about 1981 would now be in her mid-40s, and so perhaps from that age and older, women would have greatly benefited from Title IX.
    That would be me! Started HS in 80-81. Have to say I feel extremely lucky to have been swimming when I was. I feel for your sister and the many would-be women athletes who never had the opportunities I did.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    The (seconds per 100) vertical component of the
    100 meter swim pace by gender and age group chart
    is has lines every 20 second chunks.
    Consider have lines every 1, 2, or 5 second lines along with a link to the raw data
    USMS 1 Hour Postal Championships (January 1 - 31, 2011)
    Women's Results
    Men's Results

    you wrote "USMS 1-Hour Postal Swim World Record Holders"
    it should be USMS Long Distance National Records

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    Very Active Member Kurt Dickson's Avatar
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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    There are so many confounders that your study, while noble, may be impossible to interpret.

    I won the 40-44 postal this year but got my arse handed to me by the studliest female who also happened to be in my age group (Zamanian). It is difficult to compare age groups in masters as the 18-29 group is generally, despite having the most potential, getting their careers going (swimming less). My 200 back at age 44 is consistently within 1% of the time I did when I was 25.

    I think women, while having more fat, deposit it around hips and legs which may drop them more in the water. Also triathletes (male and female) are equally awful at swimming. Given the lack of attention most of the give to the sport, I suspect the gender margin would be marginal with wetsuit wearers.

    Interestingly, Kostich won the LaJolla Gatorman by a 3% margin but he is 41 and the winning female is 18....I think we could all agree that it is easy to conclude that the only legitimate conclusions that we can extrapolate from the data is that title IX is responsible for the economy, animal cruelty, world hunger, joblessness, and riots in the streets of Greece.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by ande View Post
    The (seconds per 100) vertical component of the
    100 meter swim pace by gender and age group chart
    is has lines every 20 second chunks.
    Consider have lines every 1, 2, or 5 second lines along with a link to the raw data
    USMS 1 Hour Postal Championships (January 1 - 31, 2011)
    Women's Results
    Men's Results

    you wrote "USMS 1-Hour Postal Swim World Record Holders"
    it should be USMS Long Distance National Records
    Ande, great suggestion for the lines on the graph. I also agree that the records should be labeled as national records, not world records. I don't agree with calling them Long Distance Records, though. That's the name of the file I referenced, but I'm only including the 1-Hour Postal Swim records.

    Kurt, thanks for the comment. I responded on my blog.

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    Re: Gender Gap in Swimming

    This is a nice post by Evmo about gender differences in marathon swimming. http://www.freshwaterswimmer.com/201...alina-stats-3/

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