No Myth far and wide:

Relay Swimming is Faster than Individual Swimming and the Conclusion of Skorski et al. (2016) is Unfounded

  • Joachim Hüffmeier TU Dortmund University
  • Stefan Krumm Freie Universität Berlin
Keywords: teams;, groups;, performance gains:, effort gains;, relay swimming;, reaction-time correction;


Skorski, Extebarria, and Thompson (2016) aim at our article on relay swimmers (Hüffmeier, Krumm, Kanthak, & Hertel, 2012). We have shown that professional freestyle swimmers at relay positions 2 to 4 swam faster in the relay than in the individual competition if they had a high chance to win a relay medal. After applying a reaction-time correction that controls for different starting procedures in relay and individual competitions, Skorski et al. (2016) conclude that swimmers in relays do not swim faster. At first sight, their results appear to show this very pattern. However, we argue that the authors’ findings and conclusion—that our finding is a myth—are not warranted. First, we have also controlled for quicker reaction times in the relay competition. Our correction has been based on the swimmers’ own reaction time data rather than on a constant reaction time estimate and is, thus, more precise than theirs. Second, Skorski et al. treat data from international and national competitions equally although national relay competitions are less attractive for the swimmers than national individual competitions. This difference likely biases their data towards slower relay times. Third, the authors select a small and arbitrary sample without explicit power considerations or a clear stopping rule. Fourth, they unfavorably aggregate their data. We conclude that the reported results are most likely due to the methodological choices by Skorski et al. and do not invalidate our findings.