A not-so-record-breaking Winter Olympics 

February, 22, 2010
02/22/10
11:09
AM ET

Hi, I'm Peter Keating and this is the debut of my Insider statistics and analytics blog.

If you're a fan who doesn't really like -- or get -- math, but realizes there's a whole world of OBP and UZR out there that affects how GMs and coaches think, this blog is for you. If you wonder how free agency has affected competitive balance, or home-field advantage or player development, this blog is for you. If you spend your spare time staring at Ken Pomeroy's Web page for the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen and wonder if anyone will ever create something similar for soccer teams, this blog is for you. If you swear that by taking a couple of different classes in college, you could have been Paraag Marathe, this blog is for you.

In other words, it doesn't matter what level of statistics you enjoy, as long as you appreciate the patterns that data can reveal and the stories that numbers can tell. We will look at all kinds of statistical tools, historical trends and analytical debates across all sports. Sometimes I'll present original studies from ESPN and sometimes I'll convey findings from other researchers. Often I'll be learning as much as you. And we'll get two-way, and hopefully many-way, discussions going. Starting … now.

So where are the world records?

We've seen plenty of rivalries, close races and redemption at the Vancouver Olympics; nearly every day of these Games has turned out to be great viewing. But there haven't been any signature, epic, record-setting moments. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo got a world-record score in the short program of pairs figure skating, but that's not exactly Usain Bolt territory.

Of course, winning marks in many winter sports (such as Alpine skiing and luge) depend on the specific course on which athletes compete, so there are fewer world records to set in the Winter Games compared to the Summer Games. But if you look at almost any Olympic sport in which you can compare scores from year to year -- from speedskating to shot put -- you'll see athletes achieving steady, sometimes dramatic, improvements through most of the past century, but making slower, if any, progress over the past decade.

And some researchers are saying we're not likely to see many more world records ever again because athletes are reaching the limits of human performance.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
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