Insufficient data on adolescent athletes is contributing to the challenges facing youth athletic development and accurate talent identification. The purpose of this study was to model the progression of male sub-elite swimmers’ performances during adolescence. The performances of 446 males (12–19 year olds) competing in seven individual events (50, 100, 200 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, 200 m individual medley) over an eight-year period at an annual international schools swimming championship, run under FINA regulations were collected. Quadratic functions for each event were determined using mixed linear models. Thresholds of peak performance were achieved between the ages of 18.5 ± 0.1 (50 m freestyle and 200 m individual medley) and 19.8 ± 0.1 (100 m butterfly) years. The slowest rate of improvement was observed in the 200 m individual medley (20.7%) and the highest in the 100 m butterfly (26.2%). Butterfly does however appear to be one of the last strokes in which males specialise. The models may be useful as talent identification tools, as they predict the age at which an average sub-elite swimmer could potentially peak. The expected rate of improvement could serve as a tool in which to monitor and evaluate benchmarks.
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