World-class sprinters are born, not made

From Helen Stephens, a 1936 Olympian, to the latest sprinting sensation Usain Bolt, every world-class sprinter was recognised as exceptionally fast prior to beginning formal training, says a new research.

IANS| Last Updated: Jun 27, 2014, 21:14 PM IST

London: From Helen Stephens, a 1936 Olympian, to the latest sprinting sensation Usain Bolt, every world-class sprinter was recognised as exceptionally fast prior to beginning formal training, says a new research.

Exceptional speed prior to formal training is a prerequisite for becoming a world-class sprinter, the findings showed.

"Our point is not that talent trumps everything," said Michael Lombardo, professor of biology at Grand Valley State University in the US.
"Training is crucial, especially the kinds of training highlighted by the deliberate practice model. But in sports, innate talent is required too," Lombardo added.

The study contradicts the popular deliberate practice model of expertise, according to which there is no such thing as innate talent and that 10 years of deliberate practice (roughly 10,000 hours) are necessary for anyone to become an expert in any field, including sports.

The researchers studied biographies of 26 world-class sprinters, including 15 Olympic gold medalists and the eight fastest men in US history.
The first major finding was that every expert sprinter was recognised as exceptionally fast prior to beginning formal training.

A second key finding was that, contrary to the 10-year rule, most sprinters achieved world class performances in less than five years, and more than half of the Olympic champions reached this level in three years or fewer.

The findings appeared in the online journal PeerJ.