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Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Joel Stager
Department of Kinesiology

Last modified: Thursday, August 10, 2000

IU swimming expert studies age factor, new swimsuits

The performance of older women at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis comes as no surprise to Joel Stager, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Indiana University.

Stager, an exercise physiologist who has studied elite swimmers for more than 20 years, is doing research at the trials. The associate professor of kinesiology directed a 1998 research project that showed the average age of elite women swimmers increased 3.5 years from 1973 to 1992.

"It's simply not true that women swimmers peak in their teenage years," he said. His physiological testing shows that women peak in strength far after puberty. Stager's work determined the average age of a female at the senior national swimming meet was 15.7 in 1973 and 19.2 in 1992. He said American college-age and post-college women now dominate the sport, whereas years ago it was dominated by junior high school girls.

He said the results of several older swimmers at the current Olympic Trials support his research findings. Dara Torres, 33, broke a U.S. record and 27-year-old Jenny Thompson just missed a national record. The average age of the top eight women in the 100-meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials is 26.8.

Stager also is conducting performance studies at the Olympic Trials to determine the effect of new swimwear on performances. "There has been considerable speculation on the effect of these new body suits on performance, and we hope to develop some tentative findings at this meet," he said. Stager has developed analysis criteria to predict winning times in the various events at the Olympic Trials. "The only variable that we believe will change these forecasts is the effect of the new body suits," he said.

Stager is internationally known for his swimming research. He is editor of The Journal of Swimming Research and a national champion in masters swimming.

NOTE: Stager can be reached at the IU campus in Bloomington at 812-855-1637 or He will be attending the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis every evening and can be reached by leaving a message at the American Swim Coaches Association booth. You can also reach him through Richard Doty, IU Media Relations Specialist, at 812-855-0084 or