The purpose of this research was to determine the expected progression of adolescent female swimming performances using a longitudinal approach. The performances of 514 female swimmers (12–19 year olds) who participated in one or more FINA-regulated annual international schools’ swimming championships over an eight-year period were analysed. Quadratic functions for each of the seven individual events (50, 100, 200 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, 200 m individual medley) were determined using mixed linear models. The predicted threshold of peak performance ranged from 16.8 ± 0.2 (200 m individual medley) to 20.6 ± 0.1 (100 m butterfly) years of age, preceded by gradual rates of improvement (mean rate of 1.6% per year). However, following cross validation, only three events (100 m backstroke, 200 m individual medley and 200 m freestyle) produced reliable models. Identifying the factors that contribute to the progression of female performance in this transitory period of life remains challenging, not least since the onset of puberty is likely to have occurred prior to reaching 12 years of age, the minimum competition age for this championship.
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