It’s been such an amazing week so far of unbelievable athletic performances at the Rio Olympic Games! Elite athletes across the world come together and compete every four years to see who is the best of the best! With records broken time after time, the question remains, are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?
Faster, better, stronger? Human evolution or just technology driven?
Are you interested in sport and or the science behind the development of athletes and sporting achievements over time?
Award-winning sports journalist and author of the book, “The Sports Gene”, David Epstein, provides an inciteful presentation about the factors that have played a part in the record-breaking milestones of athletes over the past century…or so it seems?
There is some surprising analysis in his examples as Epstein puts much of these performances into perspective once explaining a constant playing field.
Must watch video by Epstein from TED Talks!
The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” Faster, Higher, Stronger. Epstein addresses the basis of this in his must watch video below.
This video has been sourced from TED, a nonprofit organisation devoted to spreading ideas. Its agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.
David Epstein – Are Athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?
“Now we all have this feeling that we’re somehow just getting better as a human race, inexorably progressing, but it’s not like we’ve evolved into a new species in a century. So what’s going on here? I want to take a look at what’s really behind this march of athletic progress.”
Video source: TED Talks, Ideas worth spreading.
So now you know the answer
As Epstein explains, there are three main contributing factors to why athletes are getting faster, better, stronger.
1. Changing technology
Whether it’s track surface, athletic starting blocks, lighter shoes, faster skis, improved swimming pool design, or slim line swim suits, technology has played a significant part in improving the performance of athletes over the past century.
2. Changing genes
Whilst we have not evolved into a super race, “the gene pool within competitive sports has definitely changed”.
“So in sports where large size is prized, the large athletes have gotten larger. Conversely, in sports where diminutive stature is an advantage, the small athletes got smaller. The average elite female gymnast shrunk from 5’3″ to 4’9″ on average over the last 30 years, all the better for their power-to-weight ratio and for spinning in the air. And while the large got larger and the small got smaller, the weird got weirder. The average length of the forearm of a water polo player in relation to their total arm got longer, all the better for a forceful throwing whip.“
3. Changing mindset
Over time, we have learned to push beyond what we thought were our physical limits by changing our mindset. Athletes have then been able to move beyond previously perceived barriers and limitations.
So together, sports innovation, human adaptation and development, and unlocking the mind, have in fact combined to allow athletes to become faster, better, stronger. Enjoy the rest of the Games!