So below is a table that shows how many world records have been set in each event in each of the last five decades. Keep in mind that some of the events were pretty new then, and some have only really been added in the last 15 years.Ok, so same again, some observations from me (feel free to pick out your own): Finally, let’s do this exercise: Take the World Record on January 1st, 1990, and ask where that performance would be ranked on the all-time lists TODAY, the 12th August 2016.Despite seeming like a relatively stable place, the Earth's surface has changed dramatically over the past 4.6 billion years.Mountains have been built and eroded, continents and oceans have moved great distances, and the Earth has fluctuated from being extremely cold and almost completely covered with ice to being very warm and ice-free.
So a couple of observations from me (by no means exhaustive, but ‘highlights’): Next, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the world record breaking patterns have changed over time.And then today, Almaz Ayana won the first athletics medal of the 2016 Olympics in a world record over 10,000m, removing one of the “invincible” Chinese turtle-blood powered performances from the books. And so below is a discussion of the world records, and what they mean in the broader context of credibility of the sport.I hope it’s stimulating – the intention is to create questions and to stimulate thinking, not to provide definitive answers.Upfront, and particularly in the context of Ayana’s eye-popping today, let’s remind ourselves that a stopwatch alone is not enough to definitively conclude that a person is doping. If any of us were judges or jurors, presented with only a performance, I’d hope nobody would call it definitely doped without also seeking some broader context (Ok, that’s not always true – there’s a point where a performance will be obviously doped, but we aren’t there yet) So with that in mind, let’s revisit the record books (including Ayana’s run today) and seek that context.First up, here is a table showing the ages, in years and days, of a range of track and field world records.