I think most people would agree that the performance of sports teams and individuals has improved over time. One need only look at old footage of any sport, team based or individual, to witness how fitness, physique, athleticism, stamina and technique have all improved. This is in no way to dimisnish the greats of the past, who may have achieved the same results, or possibly even better, had they access to the same improvements in technology, coaching, and sports science, etc.
Improvements in individual sports are often easier to spot than team-based ones. This is because there is usually a world record time, distance, weight etc. This way it is easier to compare contestants through time. Remarkably, Jesse Owens' world record from 1936 is 0.04 short of today's Olympic qualifying time of 10.16 seconds.
One sport where times have remained largely stable is horse racing. I previously compared Derby Times to the Tour de France and illustrated the remarkable stability in horses since WW2. Given that the world's oldest handicap steeplechase, the Grand National is on this Saturday, I thought it was appropriate to consider the winning time of each race for the past 50 years.
25 horses since 1967 ran the race faster than last year's winner Rule The World. This includes winners from 1973, 1974, 1976, 1981 and 1982.