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Inge De Bruijn Is Normal

Jun 10, 2000  - Brent S. Rushall

Over the past two weeks, coaches and swimming enthusiasts have suggested the record swims in three events of Inge de Bruijn from Holland, have somehow been "tainted." A veiled accusation of drugs, and similarities to Michelle de Bruin of Ireland have been raised.

Last year, Inge de Bruijn was ranked #1 in the world in one event and #2 in the others. She is in her third year of a comeback from retirement in 1996.

It is common to see "mature" women reenter sport and perform as well as, and if not better, than they have ever done before. The American 34-year old, Dara Torres, is currently ranked #2 and #3 in the world in 50- and 100-m freestyles respectively. That is after a seven-year retirement, and a shorter period of swimming since retirement than Inge de Bruijn! What de Bruijn is doing is not that unusual.

It is worthwhile to view Inge de Bruijn's swims in perspective. If the world records of the men and women in 1980/81 are used as a basis to determine how much de Bruijn's recent swims improved the marks, some interesting facts are revealed.

From 1980/81 until the most recent records the following are true:

  • In 100m freestyle, the men's record has improved from 49.36 to 48.21 (2.33%), while the women's has improved from 54.79 to de Bruijn's 53.80 (1.8%).
  • In 100m butterfly, the men's record has improved from 53.81 to 51.81 (3.72%), while the women's has improved from 57.93 to de Bruijn's 56.69 (2.14%).

    In both events that Inge de Bruijn has been viewed suspiciously, the amount of improvement she produced was less than the men (both Australian-trained swimmers) achieved over a similar period.

    There is a simpler explanation for this improvement. It is a commentary on the status of women's swimming in the world. Typically, women have been swimming with poor techniques that have held back their gender's "progress" over the years. It is possible, that Inge de Bruijn is just swimming "better" than the others have over the past two decades.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Brent S. Rushall

    Brent Rushall is a professor at San Diego State University. His articles can be found on his website Coaching Science Abstracts or Swimming Science Journal. He also has a page dedicated to keeping track of drug cheaters called the Swimming Hall of Shame.