Whether an Olympian or a local athlete, records matter

The 2008 Summer Olympics gave the world a couple of the biggest record breaking performances.

Swimmer Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing and Jamaica's Usain Bolt broke the record in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.

But even with those two record breaking athletes, performances by athletes may have started to plateau and the competitors may have hit a peak, according to an report in the Los Angeles Times.

In the article, Geoffroy Berthelot, a researcher at INSEP, an internationally respected school and research institute for athletes in Paris, found peak times in track and field have not improved in 64 percent of events since 1993.

After 1990, the same was true for swimming and diving as times were down, until 2000 when new high-tech swimsuits aided swimmers in shaving a good chunk of time of their personal bests.

"World records are indeed flattening," Berthelot said in the LA Times story. "The likelihood that a world record occurs is becoming less and less."

But this isn't the first time the idea has come up if records can still be broken.

Bolt actually broke a record no one thought could fall.

In 1996, American Michael Johnson set the record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 19.32 seconds, a time which no one thought, would fall – until Bolt came along.

Bolt didn't crush the record by any means, but put up a time of 19.30 seconds.

USD head men's track and field coach Dave Gottsleben said there will always be a new 'freak' that comes along to break a record.

"No one though Johnson's records would be broken," he said. "Someday, someone will come along and break the records Bolt put up as well."

Gottsleben said one of the reasons the records will fall someday is because breaking the records are what the athletes strive for.

"Records are what drive the athletes, whether it's an Olympic, world, school or family record," he said. "They are always trying to get their personal bests as well."

One person who has a different opinion is USD junior Emma Erickson, a distance runner for the women's track team.

"They always say records are going to be broken, but you wonder if there's a point where it's maxed out," she said. "I was watching the Olympics and saw Bolt break those records, and I would think there would be a point when the record won't be reachable. You can't always duplicate it and there might be a time where it doesn't fall."

Erickson is no stranger to the record books herself.

She used to own USD's school record in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:09.30 in 2008, until she shattered that time with a run of 2:06.83 at the Iowa State University Classic on Feb. 13.

But for Erickson, the record really only meant one thing to her.

"It was awesome to run that time, but when I ran it, it wasn't like 'Oh you broke the record!'," she said. "It was more along the lines that I'm improving and moving in the right direction. Breaking the record isn't the first thing that goes through my mind."

Erickson added that she is just always trying to better her time and that it's just a bonus if she breaks a record.

But that doesn't mean Erickson doesn't enjoy getting a record, especially her latest one.

Lucky Huber, USD's head women's track and field coach, entered Erickson into the race with a time of 2:07, which caught her off guard.

"I was extremely nervous because of the level of competition and Lucky entered me in as 2:07, and I wanted to represent USD and not have people think 'why is she in this?'," she said. "I was thinking 2:09 and 2:06 wasn't in my mind. I was extremely happy and almost anything could've happened the rest of the meet and I still would've been ecstatic."

When thinking about when an athlete peaked, Erickson has since thought she may have reached her best time with her new record, but it wasn't the first time she has thought that.

"Lucky will probably kill me for saying this, but 2:06 might be my personal best, and to go lower than that would be awesome," she said.

"But I remember running a 2:10 as a freshman and it hurt so bad, and Lucky was just saying 'Now let's get it down to 2:09' and I just thought that was crazy," she said with a laugh.

Now it seems the 'crazy' standard for Erickson has been lowered to about 2:06, and she still has a year and a half to go lower.

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