Anthropometry and Olympic Athletes

The Olympic Games brings together the best athletes in the world in a wide range of sports. Over time it has provided a great opportunity to study the body size and composition of athletes from around the world and how that relates to performance. Here are details of some of the studies of athletes, grouped by the Olympic Games they relate to. We have also done our own anthropometric comparison of Olympic champions in the 100m sprint, marathon, all-round gymnasts and 100m swimming freestyle, looking at how their body shape has changed over time.

1900: An anthropometric program was undertaken at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. Measurements were taken of height and weight, and of the different segments of the body, medical examinations, and also photographs were taken of various subjects in three aspects (front, back and side), and photographs of them performing their event. See details.

1928: A team lead by Professor Buytendijk set up a laboratory for testing athletes at the 1928 Olympic Games, collecting anthropometric, cardiovascular, x-ray and metabolic data. See details.

1928: Knoll, W., Ed., Die sportärztlichen Ergebnisse der II. Olympischen Winterspiele in St. Moritz 1928 (The sports medical results of II Olympic Winter Games in St. Moritz in 1928). Knoll was a pioneer in sports medicine, and professor at the University of Hamburg.

1932: Analysis of Olympic swimmers by Thomas K. Cureton. See details.

1948: results of Olympic Athletes published by T.K. Cureton, "Physical Fitness of Champion Athletes, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1951.

1952: Analysis by Ernst Jokl

1960 Rome Olympics: Cards to collect data were sent out to athletes before the games, however, there was a poor return rate. Instead, scientists set up a laboratory in Rome and were able to directly gather data from around 2000 athletes (see more details)

Physique of the Olympic Athlete cover of Physique of the Olympic Athlete by J.M. Tanner


1964: Olympic Medical Archives: Report, Tokyo 1964. Toshiro Azuma in collaboration with 5 co-workers edited a report with tabulated data based only on the files of the Olympic Medical Archives, including height, weight, somatotype ratings, and chest girth measurements. citation: Azuma T. (ed.) 1964, Olympic Medical Archives / Archives Medicaux des jeux olympiques, Tokyo: Japanese Olympic Medical Archives Committee.


1968: Genetic and Anthropological Studies of Olympic Athletes. Edited by A. L. de Garay, Louis Levine and J. E. Lindsay Carter. Pp. 250. (Academic Press, New York, 1974). - used sum of three skinfold measures for body composition measurement of 1968 Olympic athletes.

1972: Sportwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen während der XX. Olympischen Spiele, München 1972 (Scientific tests during the XX Olympic Games Munich 1972), by H Jungmann Publisher: Gräfelfing: K. Demeter, 1976.

1972 Olympics:

1976: There were many studies that came out of The Montreal Olympic Games Anthropological Project, including: Physical Structure of Olympic Athletes: Part I: The Montreal Olympic Games Anthropological Project., Part II: Kinanthropometry of Olympic Athletes. Edited by Lindsay Carter.

2012: In 2012 the IOC released a database containing data from most of the London Olympic Games participants, their height, weight, birth date, sport and country. See my summary and analysis of the data.

2016: In 2016 the IOC released a database containing data from most of the Rio Olympic Games participants, their height, weight, birth date, sport and country. See my summary and analysis of the data.

Unknown Olympic Year


Related Pages


Olympics Extra

The next Olympics will be the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, followed by the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing. Check out the list of olympic sports, as well as discontinued and demonstration sports.

Major Events Extra

The largest sporting event in the world is the Olympic Games, but there are many other multi-sport games. In terms of single sport events, nothing beats the FIFA World Cup. To see what's coming up, check out the calendar of major sporting events.

How to Cite