The Sports Gene

The Sports Gene

Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

Downloadable Audiobook - 2014
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In high school, I wondered whether the Jamaican Americans who made our track team so successful might carry some special speed gene from their tiny island. In college, I ran against Kenyans, and wondered whether endurance genes might have traveled with them from East Africa. At the same time, I began to notice that a training group on my team could consist of five men who run next to one another, stride for stride, day after day, and nonetheless turn out five entirely different runners. How could this be? We all knew a star athlete in high school. The one who made it look so easy. He was the starting quarterback and shortstop; she was the all-state point guard and high-jumper. Naturals. Or were they? 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? The truth is far messier than a simple dichotomy between nature and nurture. In the decade since the sequencing of the human genome, researchers have slowly begun to uncover how the relationship between biological endowments and a competitor's training environment affects athleticism. Sports scientists have gradually entered the era of modern genetic research. In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, Sports Illustrated senior writer David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this great riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence. Along the way, Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel and explores controversial questions such as: Are black athletes genetically predetermined to dominate both sprinting and distance running, and are their abilities influenced by Africa's geography?Are there genetic reasons to separate male and female athletes in competition? Should we test the genes of young children to determine if they are destined for stardom? Can genetic testing determine who is at risk of injury, brain damage, or even death on the field? 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.
Publisher: Ashland : AudioGO, 2014
ISBN: 9781469025988
Characteristics: audio file
1 sound file : digital
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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danielestes
Oct 06, 2014

Does elite athletic talent arise from nature or nurture? That's the central question of The Sports Gene by David Epstein. The answer seems to be both. Upon closer inspection, though, it depends on the sport in question. In some instances, the 10,000 hours of practice rule produces competitive results. In others, it's genetics all the way no matter how hard you train. And neither does inherent talent vs effort tell the whole story. In a few examples, the common denominator of elite performance was the culture the athlete grew up in.

It isn't about athletics all the time either. I doubt that book would have been nearly as compelling. The Sports Gene covers ground from a multitude of standpoints: Athletics, biology, genetics and anthropology. And it was the anthropological angle that interested me the most. Before the advent of modern training techniques, those that did well usually arose from a society's working class. They had very little to lose, and everything to gain by being extraordinary.

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