Pacing in swimming has been investigated in pool swimming for elite-standard and age group freestyle swimmers, but little is known about pacing in age group swimmers competing at world class level in backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. The aim of this study was to investigate pacing for age group swimmers competing at world class level in 100 and 200 m in the four single disciplines (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly). Data on 18,187 unique finishers competing in four FINA Master World Championships between 2014 and 2019 were analyzed. The sample included 3334 women and 14,853 men. Swimming speed decreased with increasing age (p < 0.05). Freestyle was the fastest and breaststroke the slowest (p < 0.05) stroke. Women and men were faster in 100 m (p < 0.05) than in 200 m. Backstroke was the stroke with the lowest and butterfly with the highest coefficient of variation in swimming speed. One hundred meters had a higher coefficient of variation in swimming speed than breaststroke (p < 0.05). For 100 m, swimming speed decreased for all strokes and all age groups during the second lap. For 200 m, swimming speed was the fastest for all strokes and all age groups during the first lap. In summary, the FINA World Masters Championships presented the unique characteristic that, when all competitors were considered, (i) swimming speed decreased with increasing age, (ii) women and men were faster in 100 m than in 200 m, (iii) freestyle was the fastest stroke and (iv) the largest increase in swimming time for 100 m all strokes and all age groups occurred during the second (out of two) lap and for 200 m, swimming speed was the fastest for all strokes and age groups during the first lap. These findings should help coaches to develop age- and event-tailored pacing strategies.
Keywords: age-group; pacing; performance; sex difference; world class.