Are Olympic Athletes Really Mutants?
Sports scientists and coaches have, over the years, realized that rather than the average body type, you want highly specialized bodies that fit into certain athletic niches, a form of artificial selection took place, a self-sorting for bodies that fit certain sports, and athletes’ bodies became more different from one another. Some athletes gain from physical “mutations” or in other words a specific body type that can helps in excelling in a particular sport. A few examples of this would be:
- In swimming, the ideal body type is a long torso and short legs. It’s like the long hull of a canoe for speed over the water.
- And the opposite is advantageous in running. You want long legs and a short torso.
- While in Basketball, one in 10 men in the NBA today are at least 7 feet tall.
- The average length of the forearm of a water polo player in relation to their total arm is much longer, allowing for a better for a forceful throwing whip
- The average height of the elite female gymnast is 4’9” allowing for better power-to-weight ratio and for spinning in the air.
Body Types in Sport
1. A body type advantage can be a differentiator at elite levels of competition. If we look at two athletes who started training at the same age, with the same coach in the same place and trained the same amount of hours in total; had the same levels of psychological resilience and same level of technical skill – the athlete that would outshine the other is the one who has a some anatomical or physiological (body type) advantage toward that sport.
2. Certain body types are advantageous for certain sports: We can start to look at body types of kids we are working with and see which athlete profile this might reflect. For example, if I come across a child with disproportionately large feet, large hands, extra long wingspan compared to height, large upper body with a tapering lower body – I would encourage this kid to take up swimming. This knowledge of body types is the basis of Talent ID programs across the globe.
3. Different Body Types are Advantageous for Different Sports: There is no single “athletic” body type that is good for every sport. The body type of a sprinter is very different from the body type of a marathon runner. In fact, there is a chance that an average Joe might outrun a sprinter in a long distance event. The body type required for a sport really depends on the sport.
“The right body type along with proper coaching, practice, nutrition and commitment towards the sports is the ultimate recipe for success in sports. Research in sport science has produced a large database of body analysis of elite athletes in each sport and we can use this information to direct kids toward certain sports.”, says Karishma Boolani (Sports Scientist – KOOH Sports Lab).
Read this fantastic article to get a good understanding of the role of body types in athletic success. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5929347/are-olympic-sports-creating-a-race-of-mutants