The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

by David Epstein


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The New York Times bestseller – with a new afterword about early specialization in youth sports – from the author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?


In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617230127
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 57,514
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David Epstein is an award-winning investigative reporter at ProPublica, and was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He earned All-East honors on Columbia University’s varsity track squad, and has a master’s degree in environmental science.

Table of Contents

Introduction: In Search of Sports Genes xi

1 Beat by an Underhand Girl: The Gene-Free Model of Expertise 1

2 A Tale of Two High Jumpers: (Or: 10,000 Hours Plus or Minus 10,000 Hours) 18

3 Major League Vision and the Greatest Child Athlete Sample Ever: The Hardware and Software Paradigm 38

4 Why Men Have Nipples 56

5 The Talent of Trainability 75

6 Superbaby, Bully Whippets, and the Trainability of Muscle 100

7 The Big Bang of Body Types 114

8 The Vitruvian NBA Player 128

9 We Are All Black (Sort Of) Race and Genetic Diversity 142

10 The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting 158

11 Malaria and Muscle Fibers 175

12 Can Every Kalenjin Run? 186

13 The World's Greatest Accidental (Altitudinous) Talent Sieve 204

14 Sled Dogs, Ultrarunners, and Couch Potato Genes 223

15 The Heartbreak Gene Death, Injury, and Pain on the Field 242

16 The Gold Medal Mutation 266

Epilogue: The Perfect Athlete 282

Afterword 291

Acknowledgments 305

Notes and Selected Citations 309

Index 345

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Malcom Gladwell

The New York Times

“Deliciously contrarian.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A must-read for athletes, parents, coaches, and anyone who wants to know what it takes to be great.”
George Dohrmann, author of Play Their Hearts Out

Customer Reviews