Born a Champion or Become a Champion?

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What does it take to be a world class athlete? Is it perseverance, hard work, commitment, hours of training and sacrifice? Or are champions decided before they every play their first game, run their first race, or even take their firsts steps? The debate of nature vs. nurture in athletics has been plaguing athletes and coaches for a long time. What is that makes top athletes better than all of the rest?
As a competitive athlete i understand and feel the burden of always wondering if my genetics will help or hinder me in athletic endeavors. When we look at a fact or figure like, the top 33 mens marathon records of all time are held by African runners, It is hard not to believe that an athletes genes play a significant role in how successful they are. This sounds like a disheartening figure, almost encouraging people to not even try because they are already pre-determined to fail. But even if we accept that nature plays a significant role in our athletic ability how do we know that the edge that these champions receive isn't strictly in strength, endurance, or other physical ability, but that of an athletes willingness to train, their perseverance, the mental toughness that pushed them harder than others. I refuse to believe that when i line up for a race that everyone there doesn't start on an even playing ground and it is the athlete that works the hardest, trains the hardest, and races the hardest that wins. If you start an event thinking that your competition was born to beat you, your already beaten.
Studies have linked certain genetics to be more prominent in athletes but it has not been proven that a person is born a champion. The following article discusses this ongoing debate and the amount that genes might affect our elite athletes, i would recommend all those interested in the subject to read farther.
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1169440/1/index.htm
I would like to close just by saying that i believe that it takes a multitude of factors, both from nature and from nurturing, to create a champion athlete and regardless if you think you have the genes of champion, you better give it absolutely everything you have come race day!

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Very interesting article. Being a huge sports fan, I feel the same way as you, becoming a champion is determined both by your work ethic and your genes. I see you posted a picture of Michael Phelps; I know there is an interesting "Sports Science" episode on him that brings up some really incredible aspects of his biological genes that have helped him become a world-class swimmer. It would definitely be something interesting to post in the blog, however, the sport illustrated article is also very interesting.

I love how you incorporated a topic that pretty much everyone enjoys, sports, to an assignment. I think it is essential for people to find ways to relate to their work in order to get the best results. I agree with your opinion that there are a plethora of factors involved in the development of Olympians and top-tier athletes. I think that some people have certain genes that make them more prone to success in sports, but that they will not have that success without first developing skills and then toning them to an elite level. It is unfortunate that some people can be better than others just by what their parents' genes are, but i guess that just means that everyone else needs to work that much harder to get ahead. I would also like to say that i like your picture of Michael Phelps. It was a great addition because he is the epitome of both nature and nurtures' affects on our success.

I have been a competitive swimmer for most of my life. Michael Phelps does have certain physical characteristics that clearly give him an edge such as show size, hand size, height, and his build in general. I like how you acknowledge that genes play a role but that there is also a mental aspect as well. I also think that if someone puts in enough effort and truly wants to win a race, then they can achieve their goals.

I really like that you used this as an application to the nature vs. nurture debate because it is so relevant to so many people. I've known plenty of athletes who do not necessarily have the "best genes" for the sport they play, but really excel because of the motivated mindset they were taught to have. I don't think there's a question that both our genetics and our upbringing contribute to the people we are, the attitudes we have, and even the type of athletes we become. Thanks for sharing!

Your article seemed very interesting to me because it has changed my opinion of the Nature Vs. Nurture debate, the way you compared it to athleticism really shined light on this topic for me, before I believed that the way you were raised was the only factor that depicted your future. Now when you compare it to sports im starting to feel that genes have a bigger impact. The part that got me was when you said "the top 33 mens marathon records of all time are held by African runners" this fact really made me think about genetics playing a role.
I enjoyed the way you presented the nature vs nurture debate it opened my eyes to something new.


I believe that the ability to become a world-class athlete is determined by both one's natural athletic ability and there work ethic. At a lower level of competition, let's use high school as an example, one can be successful by possessing one of these traits. However, as one moves up competition levels, one needs to posses both of these traits. Even if you have a very good work ethic, there will also be competitors with a similar work ethic to go with their superior athleticism. This also goes for the athletes that did not need to have a hard work ethic to be successful at a lower level, they will need to develop a better work ethic to compete at the new level of competition.

LOVED THE LINK TO THE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ARTICLE!!! Very intriguing. Relevant note, I just heard a theory that humans reach their peak physical performance potential at 23 years old for men and 21 for women (MP was 23 during the 2008 Olympics). Maybe you could have discussed how other factors (determination, confidence, age-related factors etc.) relate to athletic ability? I know it's focused on "nature vs nurture" but just another idea.

Overall, it was nice to read your post. Like some of your previous commenters, I was heavily biased toward a "nurture" influence for most situations, but this athletic example definitely sways for the influence of "nature". Nice work.

Great topic to talk about. When i think about this topic it definitely takes someone that were born with the skills to win an Olympic medal. If you have all the right genetics then you have the traits to be a great athlete but it depends on what you do with your skills or traits to make you a great athlete. It also takes a lot of pride and determination to beat out someone with the same or even greater skill level. I totally agree with what you have to say about how it takes both nature and nurture to become an outstanding athlete.

You have an engaging argument in here. I agree with you that people should not give up to try because they think they don't have a "gene" for being a champion. I feel that champions gain their successes by working hard. Genes might only have a slight influence on them. Overall, it is a nice post!

I always find nature vs. nurture arguments so interesting and I loved how you chose the topic of sports to illustrate the debate. Although I think that some people may be born with more natural athletic ability, I definitely think it takes more than that to be an athlete. This topic also makes me think about famous upsets in sports, showing that athletic competition is about more than skill of a team--a lot of it has to do with personal determination and commitment. Great post!

Great topic and great insight. I think it ultimately is a combination of both, like you said. If it were just about nurture, then Rudy would have made it to the NFL. If it were just about nature, then Randy Moss would have never had any down years in the NFL. In order to go the distance, you have to have great athletic genes, but you also must have the willingness to work hard and persevere through difficult times. If you have talent and don't work hard, there will be too many people out there, who even if they aren't as talented as you, could surpass you with enough work and determination.

Michael Phelps is a great example of what is need to go the distance in sports. Great genes. Great work ethic.

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This page contains a single entry by kling172 published on February 4, 2012 11:16 PM.

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