The current record holder for the 100-meter dash is Tim Montgomery, a US sprinter, with a time of 9.78 seconds.
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Women could be faster 100-meter sprinters than men by the 2156 Olympics, according to a study on Wednesday.
By the middle of the next century women may be leaving men in the dust and could, for the first time, beat them in the 100 meters.
If projections by scientists at Oxford University in England are correct, women will close the gender gap by clocking 8.079 seconds in the 100 meters, ahead of the best male time of 8.098 seconds. The current world record stands at 9.78 seconds.
"If current trends continue, the women will run faster than the men at the 2156 Olympics," said Andrew Tatem, an epidemiologist at the university.
"There is a strong trend at the moment of both men and women improving their 100-meter times at the Olympics but women are increasing at a faster rate ..," he told Reuters.
American sprinter Justin Gatlin won the men's 100 meters in Athens this year with a time of 9.85 and Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus took the women's gold in 10.93.
Winning times in the sprint for both sexes have increased since the 1900 Olympics, due to improved ability and better diet, fitness and coaching.
Tatem and his colleagues plotted the winning times of the men's and women's Olympic finals for the sprint over the past 100 years. Their research showed no sign that either male or female athletes have reached a plateau.
By extending current trends to the 2008 Olympics, they estimate women could win the 100 meters in 10.57 and the men in 9.73. Their calculations, which are published in the science journal Nature, show clear linear trends up to 2252.
"The lines (representing the best male and female times) cross just before the 2156 Olympics," Tatem said
But he added that the analysis did not include confounding influences such as timing accuracy, environmental variations, national boycotts or the use of legal or banned stimulants.
How much illegal substances have influenced men's or women's timing is unknown. According to some commentators, drug use can explain why women's times were improving faster than men's, particularly since they slowed after the introduction of drug testing, according to Tatem and his colleagues.
But they found no evidence to support that.
One explanation for the closing speed gap is that women have not been competing in the 100 meters as long as men and until now only a minority of the female population has been given an opportunity to compete.
"Sports, biological and medical sciences should enable athletes to continue to improve on Olympic and world records, by fair means or foul," Tatum said in the Nature report.