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Surprising Science

Has Athletic Performance Peaked?

In the sports that best measure athleticism—track and field, mostly—athletic performance has peaked. Athletes’ best sprints, best jumps, best throws—many of them happened years ago.

Geoffroy Berthelot, a research specialist at the Institute for Biomedical Research and Sports Epidemiology in Paris says, “We’re reaching our biological limits. We made major performance increases in the last century. And now it is very hard.” Berthelot speaks with the bemused detachment of a French existentialist. What he predicts for the future of sport is just as indifferent, especially for the people who enjoy it: a great stagnation, reaching every event where singular athleticism is celebrated, for the rest of fans’ lives.


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