Height Analysis of Rio Swimmers: Breakdown by Event

Swimming World Magazine has published my article “Height Analysis of Rio Swimming Finalists”, which includes a breakdown by distance and stroke (see here).

This post will provide additional information on the height range of swimmers as broken down by individual events.

We expect that height is more important in some events than others, we’ll look at the data for each event. Keep in mind that the shortest/tallest data should only be used to envelope the swimmer heights, and not to establish trends.


One the women’s side, the shortest events based on the average heights are the 400 IM, 200 FL and 100 BR.This is pretty much expected as shorter swimmers are often found in 400 IM, BR and 200 FL. (Edits made to chart and words – see NOTE at bottom)

We also gathered data on the shortest swimmer in each event, and here we see that the events with the shortest of these swimmers are the 400 IM, 100 BR and 200 FL. Again, no real surprise here. What’s really amazing though is that the shortest woman to make a final was only 1.56 m (5′ 1.5″).

The tallest women’s events by average height are the 100 FR, 100 FL and 100 BK. The only  real surprise here is that the 50 FR isn’t included with this bunch. The events with the tallest swimmers are the 200 IM (6′ 3″ or 1.9 m) and 100/200 BK.

To me, the only real surprise was that the 50 FR ranked as only the 6th tallest event by average height.


On the men’s side, the shortest events by average height are 400 IM and 200 FL (no surprises there). But the big surprise is that the 200 BK ranks as the 3rd shortest event by average height. Long axis events are often dominated by tall swimmers.

The shortest short swimmers are found in the 400 IM (5′ 6″ or 1.68 m)), 200 IM, and 200 FL.

The tallest events by average height are the 50 FR, 100 FR and 200 FR.  The huge surprise here is that both BK events had shorter average heights than the BR events. Very unusual, and perhaps its a sign that Adam Peaty (6′ 4″) and his new approach to the event is bringing taller swimmers to this stroke.

The tallest male swimmers were found in the 100, 200, 400 FR and 100 BK (all at 6′ 7″ or 2.01 m).  This isn’t surprising as tall swimmers usually dominate the sprint long axis  events.


When looking at all events, average heights haven’t changed that much between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. However, there are a few surprises:

  • male Breaststrokers are getting taller
  • short swimmers are still making finals, with the shortest woman finalist at 5′ 1″ and the shortest male finalist at 5′ 6″
  • female 50 Free average heights are only the 6th tallest woman’s event


NOTE: The initial article referenced a swimmer in the 200 BR as being 1.50 m (4′ 11″) as per the Rio Athlete database and Swimming Canada’s database.  It turns out that swimmer is actually 5′ 8″.  The women’s chart and the article have been corrected to reflect the proper data.


2 thoughts on “Height Analysis of Rio Swimmers: Breakdown by Event

    1. Arrgghh. So it turns out that the official Rio Athlete database and the Swimming Canada Athlete profiles were incorrect. The swimmer herself responded to the Swimming World article to correct her height to 5′ 8″. I’ve edited my blog post to reflect this change.

      But the new shortest woman finalist is still only 1.56m, or 5′ 1″. Sakiko Shimizu in the 400 IM.

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