The growing problem of comparing elite sport performances: The Olympic speed skating case


  • Bertus Talsma ORTEC Sports, Netherlands
  • Gerard Sierksma University of Groningen, Netherlands
  • Marcel Turkensteen Aarhus University, Denmark





The increased performance densities in the top of elite sports, sometimes mutual contest results are within the error margins of the measuring sys- tems, has caused major problems in comparing performances and deciding on winners. In case of Dutch speed skating, the pool of highly competitive athletes is large, and, since there is a limit on the number of Olympic participators per country, the Olympic selection procedure is obviously a precarious affair. Because more than 100 years of data is available, we are able to study in this respect the well-known Gould hypothesis: When the sport matures, the variation in performance, especially at the top, decreases, and extreme events, where one athlete outperforms all his competitors, be- come rarer. Since Gould’s hypothesis only holds with ‘unchanged rules of the game’, several data corrections, for example on the introduction of the klap skate, are needed. A major goal of this paper is to analyze the possible role of Gould’s hypothesis concerning the growing performance densities for top speed skating.


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How to Cite

Talsma, B., Sierksma, G., & Turkensteen, M. (2017). The growing problem of comparing elite sport performances: The Olympic speed skating case. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 12(3proc), S892-S907.