The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 161723012X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The New York Times bestseller – with a new afterword about early specialization in youth sports.

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

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chamber between 5.5 and 7 centimeters—then “that’s a gray zone for athletes,” Maron says. That is, the enlargement could be due either to training or to disease, and some athletes who are in the gray zone are cleared to play sports on the assumption that their large hearts are a training adaptation, only to then drop dead on the field. If, instead, the athlete is genetically tested and revealed to have a known mutation for HCM, no more gray zone. This is one area where personalized genetic

jumpers who beat me when I was young. You wouldn’t have said I would be Olympic champion. It’s all about your ten thousand hours.” • In 2007, Holm entered the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, as the favorite. And, despite the fact that there has never been a more assiduous student of high jump, Holm was faced with a competitor who he barely knew: Donald Thomas, a jumper from the Bahamas. Thomas had just begun high jumping. As Thomas’s cousin, a college track coach, put it, “He still

Berardelli’s paper comparing European and Kenyan, 220–21 defined, 197 of Kalenjin runners, 197–98 training and, 221 Run to Overcome (Keflezighi), 95 RUNX1 gene, 83–84 Rybakov, Yaroslav, 31, 32 Ryun, Jim, 75–79, 85–86, 99 salary gap between average workers and pro athletes, 122 Saltin, Bengt, 198 Sandoval, Anthony, 216–19 Sandoval, Presiliano, 216 Sarich, Vincent, 201 satellite cells, 107–9 Savinova, Mariya, 70 Scandinavian Journal of

British soldiers.* When the British ventured into the Cockpit Country to retrieve runaway slaves, Cudjoe’s fighters ambushed them, not merely beating them back despite their superior numbers, but building an army with the weapons they seized. The battles were so lopsided that the soldiers of the vaunted British Empire, wrote one English planter, “dare not look [the Maroons] in the face . . . in equal numbers.” That British dread is still embedded in the local names of Cockpit Country districts:

July—after the 1,500-meter time trial—there are tears. Most of them stream down the cheeks of the kids who just ran. But, says Manners, “some of the tears are mine. It’s a pretty emotional business.” It’s hard to imagine Manners sad. His eyes glitter under a newsboy cap. Together with his pointed white goatee and his buoyant walking stride, the eyes lend a puckish delight to his conversations. The 1,500-meter race that makes Manners cry is the capstone of a unique college application

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