Faster vs. Better


The relative scales of measuring Metric Sports have changed significantly over time, so in order to truly answer the question of who is better, vs. simply who is faster, then a consistent methodology is needed to compare performances across time in order to measure efficiently and equally.

Luckily! the distinction between faster (or farther, or heavier) versus better is a focal point of the MeenaMethod. Faster is absolute, as in the lower the time the faster the performance. Better is relative, as in how well does a performance relate to other performances - and in the case of the MeenaMethod, the referenced “other performance” is also known as a benchmark.

Now, i f only looking at a single data point (e.g. the time a swimmer swims a 100–yard race), the conclusion is simple and that is the lower (i.e. faster) the time, the better. The same holds true for distance and weight based physical activities as well, with the greater (i.e. farther) or larger (i.e. heavier) the result, the better.

But to look at only a single data point, particularly the end result, can prove inaccurate if taken out of context. Said differently, a single data point is not enough to define a scale.

In order have a defined scale which allows for performances to be compared against one another, then the scope of the cohort needs to expand to include variables that make the comparison relevant (e.g. gender, age, era).


Let's look at, for example, two performances in the 100-Short-Course-Yard Butterfly from the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Swimming Championships.

  • Athlete 1 performance = 47.09 seconds

  • Athlete 2 performance = 49.80 seconds

Question: Who is faster?

Note: this is not a trick question...

Answer: Athlete 1 since their time is lower (i.e. faster) than Athlete 2

Question: Who is better?

Note: this is a trick question...

Answer (part 1) = "it's relative"

Sometimes we know an answer is relative, and we even find ourselves saying "it's relative", but do we really understand what that means?  The purpose of the "who is better" question, particularly in regards to the MeenaMethod, is that is requires performances to be put into context so they can be related (a la relative) to other performances.

So, for context:

  • Athlete 1 is a male and Athlete 2 is a female. Athlete 1 is still faster, but is Athlete 1 better?

  • At the time of performance, the Male NCAA Record was 43.58 and the Female NCAA Record was 49.43.

Answer (part 2) = Athlete 2 is the better swimmer

Ultimately, the MeenaMethod calculates a performance point value that compares Athlete 1 and Athlete 2 to determine how much better one athlete is relative to the other athlete, but given the context thus far we can deduce that Athlete 2, while slower, is better than Athlete 1 because Athlete 2 is relatively closer to the benchmark (e.g. NCAA record) for its cohort.  Or, more formally, on the NCAA Record Scale of 0 - 100 points, Athlete 2 is 7.30 points better than Athlete 1.

Author: Elliot Meena

Published: November 16, 2018