The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Men fast, women can be faster
Gatlin: 9.85 sec

London, Sept. 30: Women sprinters may run faster than men within 150 years, according to a study into the narrowing gap between male and female athletes.

Scientists predict that if current trends continue, the fastest athlete at the 2156 Olympics may be a woman, ending thousands of years of male physical supremacy.

The findings, published in the science journal Nature, are based on a study of Olympic 100m sprint results over the past century.

The prediction, however, was disputed by sports scientists, who say that athletes are approaching the limits of physical accomplishment. They believe men will always out-perform women.

The findings come from a team led by Dr Andy Tatem, an epidemiologist at Oxford University's Department of Zoology. At the first women's 100m Olympics final in Amsterdam in 1928, gold was won with a time of 12.2 seconds ' 1.4 seconds longer than the men's race.

By 1952 the gap had shrunk to 1.1 seconds, with men on 10.4 seconds and women on 11.5 seconds.

In four of the five Olympics between 1988 and 2000, the difference was under a second, Dr Tatem found.

In Athens this summer, however, the gap increased, with Belarussian Yuliya Nesterenko winning the women's 100m in 10.93 seconds and American Justin Gatlin finishing in 9.85 seconds.

Nesterenko: 10.93 sec

'The trends found show they seem to be closing the gap so maybe one day they could become the dominant force. This year's women's Olympic final was a little unusual in that some of the world's fastest runners were not present, so the time wasn't perhaps as impressive as it could have been,' he said.

Dr Greg White, the director of science and research at the English Institute of Sport, challenged the findings. His own study of results from all track and field results suggests that athletics may be reaching a high point.

Female athletes are catching up with men, but mostly because they only recently got access to the training, sponsorship and events available to men, he said. The women's Olympic 100m did not start until the 1920s, while the women's marathon began in the 1980s, he said.

'Women are certainly progressing at a faster rate than men, so it may appear that one day they will run as fast as men,' he said. 'But in reality there are fundamental physiological differences between men and women, particularly when it comes to sprints.'

'There is a limit to performance and I think it's likely to be different for men and women,' he said. 'The level of improvement will continue, but it will slow down.'

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