Genetics play huge part in determining Olympians

As we marvel at the feats of athletes at the London Olympics, it’s natural to sit back and wonder: “How’d they get there?”
Many young athletes are dreaming right now about making the Olympics themselves one day, as are parents in many cases as well.
Some youngsters may be making vows to do whatever it takes to be an Olympian.
The harsh truth, though, is that much of our athletic future, or lack thereof, is already determined in the genes.
Most kinesiologists agree that ability in running, swimming, weightlifting and other so-called “nonskill sports” is determined by physical attributes, such as raw power, strength, speed or endurance depending on the sport.
Although training methods and effort can help separate the elite athletes when hundredths of a second mean the different between winning and losing, for example, unfortunately for wannabe Olympians you don’t increase the number or type of muscle fibers by training.
Most people have a close balance between fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, but it’s the sprinters who have many more fast-twitch muscles and marathon runners who have a lot more slow-twitch muscles.
Incredible as it may seem to some, companies are out there that offer tests to check children’s ACTN3 makeup to see what kind of muscle fibers they have — so as not to waste kids’ time training for events they’ll never dominate.
Four sports where a great amount of dedication, training and practice can possibly help offset a lack of genetic superiority, and allow your little one to become an elite performer and maybe even a world-class performer are baseball, soccer, gymnastics and sailing.
Even then there are no guarantees of course. Less than one percent of athletes even get a college scholarship for athletics, much less become an Olympian.
So make sure your kids work hard on their grades, too, and enjoy their sports because their odds of representing the USA, or even a college, in athletics are pretty slim.
But at least you know now that DNA may have more to do with their athletic potential more than any coach or workout regimen they might have.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at