Are athletes getting better? by Christian Tate

The Delayed Gratification team ( loves to dive into sports data, and for our book An Answer For Everything we thought it would be fascinating to see how much athletes have improved over time. We wanted readers to be able to compare advances between different disciplines easily, so we set the first world records as the baseline and then showed the percentage improvement, with athletes (each with a realistic illustration, which involved delving into lots of old sports photos) standing on proportionally-sized podiums.

We were amazed to discover the fact that one sport, the women’s shot put, had seen the most extreme growth, with an increase of 123% between the first and the latest world record holder. Although that latest world record was set during a time of fairly widespread doping in the USSR…