2012 Olympics: Swimming Records Don't Last Long, Whether You're Michael Phelps Or Ye Shiwen

I'm not going to begrudge anybody his world record, should he be lucky and good enough to get one—I'm still trying to top the all-time records for the Cyclone pinball machine, though I have a lot of work left to do—but swimming records have always bewildered me. They're just broken so often; one Olympics' worldbeater seems, four years later, like a routine scrimmage's work. Which is why I'm glad the 2012 London Olympics occasioned this article from erstwhile sportswriter Nate Silver, about the difference between track and field's records—which have apparently progressed farther toward the theoretical human limits—and swimming, where there's still technological and geopolitical runway for superstars like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and the 16-year-old Chinese phenom Ye Shiwen.

In case you were wondering, by my count five swimming world records have been broken so far during the London Olympics. The South African Cameron Van der Burgh broke the men's 100m breastroke record on July 29, while Daniel Gyurta of Hungary took the 200m breaststroke record Wednesday. On the women's side, the USA's Rebecca Soni took the 200m breaststroke record; Dana Vollmer took the 100m butterfly record; and Ye Shiwen took the 400m medley record, shaving a full second off a mark set in Beijing.

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