"Women do better in sports"

Study shows that women take less time than men to break sporting records

3 min
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the Tokyo Olympics

Barcelona"Women do better in sports, because the progression is better". It's that clear. For Jaume Nualart, this conclusion is clear after carrying out a study on the evolution of world records in athletics. "If we look at the progression, in most disciplines women have lowered their records more than men. Sometimes even twice as much", analyses Nualart, PhD, researcher and teacher. Despite entering the Olympic world much later, women have managed to improve their records dramatically. They have practically cut twice as many seconds off the stopwatch in half the time. At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where athletics has just begun, the marks are trembling before the great athletes, both men and women, who have their sights set on setting a new milestone.

A little less than a hundred years ago, at the 1924 Paris Games, women began to compete in athletics. The irruption of women in this sport was marked by an initial amateurism. This lack of professionalisation is one of the main reasons that led the first athletes to make some marks that could be considered as bad. Later, however, the improvement has been abysmal. "The women's records start to be counted later, so there is a slippage, and they start with a record that is worse. But as with the men, when they started they had much lower records. Women have much more room for improvement", defends Nualart after analysing different athletic disciplines in perspective and checking that this pattern is repeated in most of the events.

The study carried out by Jaume Nualart shows that, in most disciplines, female athletes have managed to reduce their times much faster than male athletes. If we pay attention to the records of each event, the numbers are clear. In the 100m, the ultimate athletics event, women, in 66 years of records, have managed to lower the world record by 2.57 seconds, while men have only reduced it by 1.22 seconds. For now, although they are still far away from the exceptional record set by Florence Griffith with a time of 10.49 seconds, up to six athletes have their times under 11 seconds.

For the time being, it has been possible to corroborate that the progression of women is greater than that of menvin four more events: the 1500m, the 10000m, the Marathon and the High Jump. In all the cases studied, we can see how women have had an exceptional drop in their performances, while in the case of men, despite having much lower records, the progression has been much lower and more gradual.

The struggle to be there

Breaking records, winning medals, standing on the top step of the podium, lifting trophies and appearing in history books: this is what every athlete dreams of. For both men and women, the goal is the same. The conditions are similar for everyone, but the difficulties to get there have not been the same. Women, despite having more obstacles, have managed to reach and consolidate themselves in the Olympic Games as well as breaking records with great authority.

The first Games, held in the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, were created and designed by and for men. They were not only the protagonists, but the only ones who could enjoy them: women were banned from entering because they were considered inferior.It is not necessary to look far back to see that, although the presence of women in the stands was becoming normalised, it was still unthinkable for them to step on the court. As the years have gone by, and thanks to a constant effort and struggle, the walls have been knocked down. In this sense, the 1900 Paris Games marked an era: they were the first Games where women could participate. From then on, each Olympic cycle opened the door to the possibility of new athletes taking part in the world event until Tokyo, the most equal Games in history (49% female participation). It is true, however, that each sport has shown a different resistance to change. Golf, tennis and sailing all started on the same path in 1900. But athletics did not admit women in some events until 1924, during the second Olympic Games in the French capital.

In Tokyo, athletics is already underway. After a first day longed for by millions of athletes and fans, we have already had the first tasting that has allowed us to see what level the great favourites have reached. Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Beijing and London sprint queen) and Elaine Thompson (current Olympic champion) are the athletes to beat in the main event. Not even two months ago Fraser ran the 100m in Kingston in 10.63 seconds, the second fastest time in history, just 14 hundredths of a second off the world record. In the final stages of the next few days and the 100m final this Saturday (2.50pm), Tokyo could be the scene that confirms the rule and another women's record could fall into the bag.