Athletics World Age Records by Ivan Miani, Italy




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1) What does "age record" mean?

By reading a season's world list for one event you can find the best athletes for each age class. These are the season's age records. You can match this season with past seasons' records to find the all-time records by age, as IAAF does with world records.

2) Also a world record is an age record ?

Yes, sure, a world record is the record for all ages. Logically it is also holder's age class record.
3) IAAF's record lists start on 1912. And these?

It was necessary for me to find a starting year. Usually starting years have a symbolic meaning. As in the '70s an important change occured from hand timing to electronic timing (which initiates the beginning of a new era), I decided to set my research starting year in 1977. I entered the best performances before 1977 as first record of each list.

4) In which books did you find all seasons' lists?

On ATFS (Associations of Track and Field Statisticians) Annuals. But please note that there are no women's lists from 1973 to 1977 and no birthdates before 1972. I found the missing data in some magazines.

5) Until which year did you consult seasons' lists?
They are comprehensive from 1968, to have the greatest probability of finding all the records before 1977.
6) Merlene Ottey was the first person to set a record by age at 36 in Women's 100 metres. But if an unknonwn athlete had won an official race at 36, what then?

I used the Olympic qualifying standard, which is simultaneously simple, reliable and official. Everyone can set a record by age if his performance allows him/her to qualify for the Olympics. I had to discover if someone set the Olympic standard at 36 from 1976 to 1996. I first tested this rule with Ottey and the result was negative.

7) If two athletes with same age break an age record, for example, the first in June and the second in August, do they both appear in your list?
No, only the best performance does. There's no analogy, in this sense, with world records lists, but there is an analogy with another Track & Field rule. If two ore more athletes break a world record during the same race, only the race winner's mark is registrated as new world record. Age records chronology follows the same rule. My research is a comparison of each individual athlete's progression.
8) But in this way an excellent athlete could not compare at all in your list because he/she was overshadowed by another athlete born in the same year. The list of age records is not representative!

But it's the same thing with world records, isn't it? However, this case happened just once, with GDR's long jumper Sabine John. On an empiric level one case to the contrary is the exception that proves the rule.

9) The Olympic qualifying standard lasts two years, the Olympic year itself and the year before. What about others years?

In my research the Olympic standards match four race years. So, for example, Athens's qualifying standards match 2003 to 2006.

10) And what if someone set a record 10-20 years ago and his performance no longer matches today's standard ?

Her/his record falls off, as if beaten. For example, Heike Drechsler of GDR jumped 6.64 at 16 and broke world record by age. Sydney's standard was set at 6.65, one centimetre more, so that her performance is no longer a record. Thus it lasted from 1980 to 1998. In the meantime nobody broke it. Today there is not a record by age at 16 in female's Long jump.

11) Why is the Women's 1500 world record not a record by age?

Because I decided not to consider all records made by Chinese athletes whenever they ran in the Chinese Games (and this particular record come from 1993 Chinese Games); I exclude as well all performances made by athletes successively banned for life for doping. I'm happy to know that, in Fall 2005 IAAF decided to introduce the same rule (see No. 144 and 145)!
I already started to apply these rule some years ago, when I started my research. This happened, for example, with hurdler Danny Harris. Now for IAAF too, all marks made by athletes successively banned for life for doping are cancelled.

12) There's something I still don't understand. Age records lists start from the best results before 1977. How did you find all of them if you only read the annuals back to 1968?

Obviously going backwards to that year was enough to find all first records by age!

13) Sorry, I'll try to better explain by saying that I'd like to know how you could be sure to find all results by looking back just to that year?

In some cases, I started with a world record (= all ages' record) and found all performances better than it. But 1968 was an Olympic year, and I thought Mexico City results were much better than previous years in my research.

14) And was this way actually so?

It was. Obviously, there have been some exceptions. My problem was to reduce the probability of overlooking some records by age set in the Fifties or in the early Sixties. I read annuals starting from 1968 and had only a look at some events in previous years. I thought: "Track and field is an ever-progressing sport, so it's improbable to find many marks in 1960 which were better than in 1964 or in 1968". To be sure that my lists start from all performances which have been records by age without exploring the years before 1968, I found two ways: a) starting from world records (every world record is also an age record, as I said before); b) settling a starting mark and collecting all results from the starting mark in history and on.

15) But isn't this timing the Olympic standard?
Unfortunately no, because Munich 1972's standard was 11.5 in Women's 100 metres (11.64 electronic) and it happened that ATFS' lists stopped at 11.3, so 11.5 is really a very large number and I couldn't find them all. In fact, I started from 11.3.
16) You also did some research about hand-timed races, but you said before your statistics start from 1977, when hand timing was no longer official. What are the hand-timed races for?

They are exclusively for my research's final ranking: "Who broke more records by age".

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This Page was last updated: Saturday, 23 December 2017.
This page was originally posted: Sunday, 2 August 2002.