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Women may surpass men in athleticism in future

By Sarah Sheafer
<[email protected]>

In the early to mid 20th century, the proposal of women outshining men in any sport was unheard of. However, a new study provides evidence of the possibility of women competing alongside men not only in the Olympic 100m, but also winning the race.

As a female athlete, I am tired of hearing about men surpassing women. Not only does Hussein Bolt have the title of “fastest male runner,” but also “fastest runner period.” If just even once a female could receive a title like that, then there would be a breakthrough in athletic history. Even though it is unlikely that women could ever outrun men, I would never say “never.”

For years, researchers have been studying the development of male and female runners. According to a study done by Oxford University in 2004, in the 2156 Olympics the women’s fastest sprint time will be 8.079 seconds and the men’s will be 8.098 seconds. Researchers made this conclusion by comparing male and female Olympic 100m times since 1900. The first women’s 100m event took place in Amsterdam, where the winning time was 12.2 seconds compared with the men’s 10.8 seconds. With a difference of 1.4 seconds. By 1952 the gap narrowed to 1.1 seconds. Even though there are many speculations on the proposal of the fastest runner becoming a female, I hope that it will one day come true.

Because I am a member of this school’s track and field team and am surrounded by female athletes, I was immediately elated by this news. Never before have I seen a female outshine a male in an event like this. If it were to ever occur, it would not only be a turning point in athletics history, but a momentous day for all women.

However, many scientists have rebuked this prediction. They believe that a woman’s physical limit will stop her from ever catching up to men and that the record times of both sexes are leveling off, making time of 8.1 seconds unlikely.

It was proposed by some scientists that women only needed more experience, better training and stronger coaching to outshine their male counterparts. This idea is now largely discredited for Olympic events because researchers say that a woman’s biological thread is holding her back. Even though not every man is inherently better than every woman, a male’s testosterone, build and heart gives him the better advantage. A very lean, well-trained woman will be faster than a less fit man but this is not the issue in the Olympics, where every athlete is the world’s best.

Another speculation brought on by scientists is that women are better endurance athletes than men. According to runnersworld.com, “In the 1977 U.S. 100-mile Championships, Natalie Cullimore placed second among all finishers. Her time was the fourth fastest ever run by an American of either sex.” In 1992, it was proposed that women would beat men in the marathon by 1998. Since 1998 has already come and gone, this was obviously discredited. In fact, from 1990 to 1998, the time gap between the women’s marathon world record and the men’s increased from 14:16 to 14:42. How could women be slowing down? The answer is because random out-of-competition drug testing started in 1989. This brought the end to the massive sports systems that had been giving performance-enhancing drugs to athletes. This possibly could have affected the time gap because women benefit more from steroid drugs.

However, in this century, women are becoming faster again, shown by Paula Radcliffe with the marathon world record in 2:15:25 in April 2003. With her race, she lowered the time gap. But will the gap ever close? Most would answer with “No way.” According to runnersworld.com, “Women (A) burn fat slightly better than men, at least when they haven’t eaten recently; and (B) burn simple sugars (sports drinks and gels) better than men; but (C) don’t store glycogen as well as men when carbo-loading. By the time you add A and B, then subtract C, you get…basically no difference. And women still have to lug around that annoying body fat. For this and other reasons, women have a significantly lower maximum aerobic capacity, on average, than men.”

Even though the consensus of opinion says it is unlikely that women will ever outrun men, I will still keep an open mind. Nothing has been fully proven and unless scientists can step into the future and take a peek at the 2156 Olympics, no one can determine the future outcome. Sarah Sheafer is a feature editor for the HiLite. Contact her at [email protected].

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