World class competitors are putting it on the line at the Winter Games but have humans already reached their athletic potential? French researcher Geoffroy Berthelot has a study that claims the peak of athletic performance was achieved in 1988 with numerous world records having plateaued since the 1990’s.
Carl Foster, former President of the American College of Sports Medicine, notes in the years leading up to then, the talent pool was increasing internationally. The early 1970’s saw a spike in women’s participation while the same period involved more East Africans competing. This may have led to potential populations worldwide already being tapped for athletes. “We are sort of getting the effect of everyone’s-at-the-party,” says Foster.
The UW-La Crosse professor admits there are potential champions who never discover their talent because of their upbringing, such as geographic popularity of certain sports. This may offset by media access drumming up interest in participation for activities outside of one’s proximity. He cites current Olympic coach Ryan Shimbakuro, who as a child in Hawaii became interested in the winter sport of speed skating while watching it on television. His parents supported his competitive aspirations by moving to the Midwest for training, eventually to the Milwaukee area.
Drug use is another variable to consider in recent record setting. Barring illegal activities, “We’re getting closer to limit scientifically of what we can do,” says the exercise physiologist.
Technology is also contributing to new achievements according to a Norwegian researcher that Foster cites.
Prof. Foster (:16)
Another example of this, he says, is the space age suits that swimmers wore in the Beijing Olympics. The LZR swimsuits have since been banned from competition.