Performance Trends in Master Butterfly Swimmers Competing in the FINA World Championships

Erin Cameron Competition, Dr. Erin Cameron, Research Abstract Leave a Comment


Performance trends in elite butterfly swimmers are well known, but less information is available regarding master butterfly swimmers. We investigated trends in participation, performance and sex differences in 9,606 female and 13,250 male butterfly race times classified into five-year master groups, from 25-29 to 90-94 years, competing in the FINA World Masters Championships between 1986 and 2014.


Trends in participation were analyzed using linear regression analysis. Trends in performance changes were investigated using mixed-effects regression analyses with sex, distance and a calendar year as fixed variables. We also considered interaction effects between sex and distance.


Participation increased in master swimmers older than ~30-40 years. The men-to-women ratio remained unchanged across calendar years and master groups, but was lower in 200 m compared to 50 m and 100 m. Men were faster than women from 25-29 to 85-89 years (p < 0.05), although not for 90-94 years. Sex and distance showed a significant interaction in all master groups from 25-29 to 90-94 years for 200m (p < 0.05).

For 50 m and 100 m, a significant sex × distance interaction was observed from 25-29 to 75-79 years (p < 0.05), but not in the older groups. In 50 m, women reduced the sex difference in master groups 30-34 to 60-64 years (p < 0.05). In 100 m, women decreased the gap to men in master groups 35-39 to 55-59 years (p < 0.05). In 200 m, the sex difference was reduced in master groups 30-34 to 40-44 years (p < 0.05).


In summary, women and men improved performance at all distances, women were not slower compared to men in the master group 90-94 years; moreover, women reduced the gap to men between ~30 and ~60 years, although not in younger or older master groups.

Practical Implication

This study looks at the changes in butterfly performance over the past 30 years. The number of masters swimmers continues to grow and the performance of those masters swimmers continues to improve.  Keep it up masters swimmers!


  1. Knechtle B, Nikolaidis PT, Roseman T, Rust CA. Performance Trends in Master Butterfly Swimmers Competing in the FINA World Championships. . 2017 Jun; 57: 199–211.

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