Back in November, Swimming World published my article on the Age Problem in Canadian Swimming in their subscription-based Swimming Technique magazine, with the agreement that my article would eventually appear on their free Swimming World site. My intent was and always has been to get the widest possible audience concerning this important subject.
Soon after Swimming Canada requested the right to publish a response, which came out in Swimming Technique in February.
Both of these articles are now available for free on Swimming World’s summary article here.
Here are the highlights of my lengthy article. (You’ll get a lot more out of it by going directly to my article here. The article contains detailed graphs and charts that tell a much better story than this summary can).
After a lot of number crunching, my results showed some really disturbing things.
- Canadian elite swimmers are much younger than world elite swimmers and the difference in ages is growing. At the moment that difference is roughly 2.5 years.
- Canadian elite swimmers are retiring at significantly younger ages than the world elite. Roughly 4 years younger for Canadian women, and about 5.5 years younger for Canadian men.
- Using my 100Avg3 method of quantifying the speed in swim meets, I was able to determine that, over the last 12 years, Canadian women are decreasing the gap between their performance and Olympic and World Championships performances. Canadian men are increasing that gap, and are now performing roughly at the level the world was performing in the late 1980s.
- I then analyze swimming medals over the last 4 Olympics to show a distinct age difference based on gender. Women can win medals at younger ages far more easily than men (18&younger women: 16 medals – 18&younger men: 3 medals). This shows that early retirement should affect men much more than women, as men tend to peak at older ages, and win medals at older ages.
- I then analyze Canadian swimming performances at Rio, and it clearly shows a vibrant women’s team, and a struggling men’s team.
Finally, I laid out 4 recommendations that Swimming Canada may want to review in order to address the problem of our early retiring swimmers. These recommendations may be wildly wrong, but my whole point is that we have to start discussing the problem now. And from what I can tell, this problem is not being addressed with any sense of urgency.
I want to make it clear that I’m not faulting the Canadian men. They are younger and are facing elite swimmers who are much older. To their credit, these men are swimming incredibly well for their age. And hopefully if they stay in the sport longer, they’ll be at the top as well.
Swimming Canada’s Response
I wouldn’t presume to summarize Swimming Canada’s response, other than to say that it doesn’t address my points at all
We clearly have an age problem that is affecting both genders, but is more urgent and significant on the men’s side. Our swimmers are retiring much earlier than the world’s elite. We need to come up with ways to reverse this trend, and we need to start on this now.
Let’s get this discussion going!