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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 September, 2004, 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK
Women 'may outsprint men by 2156'
Women are set to become the dominant sprinters
Women sprinters may be outrunning men in the 2156 Olympics if they continue to close the gap at the rate they are doing, according to scientists.

An Oxford University study found that women are running faster than they have ever done over 100m.

At their current rate of improvement, they should overtake men within 150 years, said Dr Andrew Tatem.

The study, comparing winning times for the Olympic 100m since 1900, is published in the journal Nature.

However, former British Olympic sprinter Derek Redmond told the BBC: "I find it difficult to believe.

"I can see the gap closing between men and women but I can't necessarily see it being overtaken because mens' times are also going to improve."

A team led by Dr Tatem, from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, calculated that by 2156, a woman sprinter could cover the 100m in 8.079 seconds.

That would put women ahead of their male colleagues, who are expected to manage a best result of 8.098.

The mathematical formula used by the scientists indicated that women's 100m entrants could be in serious contention to post a faster finishing time from the 2064 Olympics onwards.

But the point at which they were most likely to edge in front of the men was the 2156 games.

'Dominant force'

Dr Tatem said: "We are not saying categorically that women will overtake the men but we think there is a chance and we have put this up for discussion.

Yuliya Nesterenko wins 100m gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics
Yuliya Nesterenko's successors could close the gap with the men
"The trends found show they seem to be closing the gap, so maybe one day they could become the dominant force."

Aided by colleagues from Oxford, the University of Southampton and Kenya, Dr Tatem logged Olympic winning times from the start of the 20th Century.

At the first women's 100m event, staged in Amsterdam in 1928, the winning time was 12.2 seconds compared with the men's 10.8 - a difference of 1.4 seconds.

By 1952, the margin had decreased to 1.1 seconds, with the men hitting the tape at 10.4 seconds and the women at 11.5.

In Olympics between 1988 and 2000, the difference was under one second. But in Athens this summer, the gap widened to 1.08 seconds, with Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus taking the women's title at 10.93 seconds and American Justin Gatlin winning the men's event in 9.85.

Dr Tatem said: "This year's Olympic final was a little unusual in that some of the world's fastest runners were not present, so the time wasn't perhaps as impressive as it could have been."

However, he said if overall trends continued, the gap would close up again to 0.84 seconds at the next Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

The world 100m records are currently held by Americans Tim Montgomery (9.78 seconds) and Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49 seconds).

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