What makes a good athlete? Genetics and training or determination and willpower? Well, a combination of all these is requires to succeed. However, if you’re an average human, you probably will never be as good as any top athlete. Elite athletes are a league of their own.
A few weeks ago a Professor of Applied Sport Science at St Mary’s University was invited to appear on Sky News to discuss the physiological data that Tour de France winner Chris Froome had released to prove that he hadn’t been taking performance-enhancing substances. What immediately became obvious is something that sports experts have known for many years, namely that the physiological capacity of elite performers across a range of sports differs immensely to that of the rest of average athletes.
The professor was asked to review measures such as Froome’s lung capacity and power output, maximum oxygen uptake value, and all of the values that he saw wouldn’t be achievable or sustainable for anyone who isn’t highly trained and highly motivated. In today’s era of mass audience consumption of sport through a variety of media channels, it’s become all too easy to watch with little or no appreciation of the outstanding performances that are on show. Part of the reason is that elite athletes can make things look far too easy – a marathon runner running at about 13 miles an hour often looks effortless, as do cyclists cruising around a velodrome at high speed.
ELITE ATHLETES FORM A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
It doesn’t matter how much or hard the rest of average humans train, it’s unlikely that the huge majority of people will ever be able to reach the levels achieved by elite athletes, or produce similar results. To get to the top, it’s highly important that you choose your parents sensibly because this will determine several of the genetic characteristics that are needed for sporting success. There’s also a need for great coaching, that provides the support and guidance to continuously improve and sustain performance. Alongside this, elite athletes have to have the mental fortitude and determination to dedicate their lives to their sport.
Those who excel in sport, and have long and successful sporting careers, often succeed in life as well. Sport does require some degree of physical prowess and fitness, but with determination we can all achieve personal goals and succeed, even if these don’t stretch to winning Olympic medals or rowing across oceans.