Background: The aims were to examine (i) the difference in swimming speed in breaststroke swimmers between short (SC) and long course (LC) and (ii) the change in swimming speed across years for elite female and male swimmers competing at national and international level.
Methods: Swimming speed of breaststroke swimmers at national level (i.e. athletes listed in Swiss swimming high score list between 2000 and 2011) and at international level (i.e. finalists of World Championships between 2001 and 2012) were analyzed for three course distances (i.e. 50m, 100m and 200m) using linear regression analyses and analysis of variance.
Results: Swimming speed was faster in SC than in LC in 50m (1.8-2.6%), 100m (2.2-3.6%) and 200m (2.6-4.2 %), respectively. Swimming speed increased between 1.2% and 5.2% both for SC and LC across years, independently of the sex and the distance. For all distances, the sex difference was greater in LC than in SC. Mean values for the sex difference in swimming speed at national level were 12.1% in SC versus 11.9% in LC for 50 m, 11.9% in SC versus 11.3% in LC for 100m and 11.0% in SC versus 10.7% in LC for 200m, with significant difference only for 200m LC (p=0.03). Mean values for sex difference in swimming speed at international level were 13.3% in SC versus 12.7% in LC for 50m, 12.6% in SC versus 11.9% in LC for 100m and 12.1% in SC versus 11.2% in LC for 200m, only with significance for 100m SC (p=0.01).
Conclusion: Elite breaststroke swimmers were ∼3% faster on SC compared to LC. The sex difference in breaststroke swimming speed from 50m to 200m events was ~11% (with significance at national level on 200m LC and on international level on 100m SC) but appeared slightly greater in LC compared to SC.