Cichorei Kano wrote:We are talking here still of 'normal' people (not about Olympic elite athletes as they are nor normal people and can do not normal things due to their not-normal genetics)
That was a very good post CK, but it would be even better if you acknowledged the not-normal work ethic of olympic athletes as well. The way you put it repeats a stereotype that it's all about winning the gene lottery
. I'm not saying this factor is not important, because it is, but I just believe in giving credit where it is due.
Nevertheless, thanks for the informative post!
Thanks for the comment. In my previous post I tried to be concise. Sometimes I try to be exhaustive. This time I tried the opposite, and I also tried to keep it simple.
I used the term "Olympic elite" athletes. This term was a conscious choice, and I wanted to contrast it with "Olympic" athletes and "elite" athletes. Thus, with "Olympic elite" I was referring to the elite among the Olympic athletes, i.e. those Olympic athletes who also bring medals home. After all, almost 'everyone' can participate in the Olympics, if the sports does not have sharp minimals one has to reach first and if your conditions are ideal; with that I mean, if your country is small and insignificant enough, your level in a sport may be mediocre on an international level, but you then still are an Olympic athlete, you know, the ones that never make it further than the first round. Those were thus not the ones I meant in my response. You mention "work ethics". This is a difficult to measurable criterion, and something that is not at all general. I have known people who participated in the Olympics who were right out lazy to the extent that it was somewhat embarrassing. I am thinking of a runner I personally knew (begin 1980s), who was from a smaller country, who most likely used roids but was never caught in those days, who when he came to training, most of the time was sitting down on the track, every half hour or so got up to do something. He went to the Olympics, sometimes even made it to the second round, no, no medals. Then you have the complete opposite, a true training beast like the notorious Van De Walle, but he was an Olympic medal winner, even an Olympic champion. That is the difference between "participating in the Olympics" and "coming back with an Olympic medal". That difference was behind my choice of the term "Olympic elite" athlete.
"Work ethic" becomes a complex term as it is intertwined with psychological and motivational strength, but also with injury proneness, and professional statute as a sporter (is the athlete in some role that he can professionally train, or is he or she something that meanwhile has to hold a standard 9 to 5 job ?)
When referring to the "Olympic athlete" I deliberately used the term "not normal" not because genetics is a stereotype but because there are truly things going on that cannot be properly explained with the simplified approaches explained in the videos which target a lay person audience. For example, a way that aerobic training and burning fat is explained to lay people is low intensity which you can sustain for a long time. Let's take a straightforward discipline and avoid judo where the nature of the fight and opponent may make one fight totally different from another fight. Therefore, let's take marathon running. People who in the Olympics win medals in the marathon. They run at an average speed of +20 km/h (+12.5 mph). Is this low intensity ? Clearly not. 3000 m steeple, less than 8 minutes. Is this low intensity ? Clearly not. But this has to be aerobic, no ? After all the anaerobic system would be exhausted in 45-90 seconds. So how is this possible ? You try running at a speed of 20 km/h and see how long you can sustain this. Then, try to imagine doing this for >2 hrs. This is not normal. This is also not a mere effect of "work ethic". These people can sustain >85 % VO2max for hours, not normal. Some things develop in response to training, such as for example cardiac out put, left ventricular function, and of course lean body mass. That does, however, not explain the entire picture. When you look at some aerobic events, like cross-country skiing, and look at the champions, you will find a high proportion of remarkable genetics; not saying you cannot find exceptions, but overall ... For example, you find total lung capacity that is often exceptional. That's not a mere function of training. You do not create large lungs by training. Large lungs allow exceptional minute ventilations. The minute ventilation does not mean much in the absence of significant oxygen uptake, but in the presence of a trained body with high LBM, stroke volume, arterio venous difference, and high oxygen uptake, that high minute ventilation is going to come into play and ensure higher oxygen uptake. The same applies for many factors which cannot be trained, or where training would not make much difference, such as in the case of ethnic predisposition. There's reason the final of an Olympic swimming final is populated by ethnically quite different looking people from the 100m sprint in track and field. "Work ethic" is not going to change much there, and the "stereotype" finds grounds in scientific basis. Not to say that some of it can't be overcome, but then rather as an exception instead of the rule. Allan Wells is an Olympic champion 100 m (Moscow 1980) who looks quite different from the rest; so he isn't exception who breaks with the stereotype. But ... how did he break that stereotype ? By the only thing that can help interfering with genetics ...
One of the big mistakes that has been made and is still being made in training of judo elite squads (and the obvious reason is the lack of scientific involvement) is a generalized training for the team. Usually does not work, although the effect of it not working is skewed in Japanese and Korean judoists for the simple reason that it does not matter too much for those dropping out because there are enough alternatives that can step in. In most countries that is not so, and what will then happen is that that specific weight category for years has someone who might dominate nationally but cannot make it internationally, but still remains in the squad. To put it simple, if every judoka would train like Van De Walle, every judoka would win Olympic medals ? No. Many would never be able to train like that no matter how hard they would try, no matter what work ethic they might have. The ability to train is in itself a genetic advantage, so it's not only the outcome of the training which has a genetic component. Yesterday, a woman tried swimming the English Channel. Now she's dead. Why ? Didn't she train for it ? Of course, she did. Then why did she die while so many others did not, or alternatively would not have the ability to swim the English Channel. I know for 200% sure that no matter how hard I would train, I could never come even close to swimming the English Channel, and this merely on the base of genetics. Why did she die ? They don't know. I suspect she might well have died as a consequence of severe arithmia caused by electrolyte changes. Why ? Because some people's physiological homeostatic responses fail to do what those systems can take in others. I mentioned cross-country skiing. I could not be even a mediocre cross-country skiier. I am that bad, and no matter how hard I would train --yes, I could increase my level-- but I would still remain poor. Why ? Because it is impossible for me to train in that even to transcend my serious genetic limitations. Here's just one. Cross-country skiing requires environmental conditions, namely snow. For there to be snow, the temperature has to be below a certain level. At that level, namely what we call 'cold' there are effects on physiological functioning. Physiological responses to cold are highly genetic and virtually untrainable. That is a peculiarity. You see, responses to heat are also genetically determined, but they are well trainable. In other words, one can train well for heat circumstances, but not for cold circumstances. Of course people diving in ice train for it, but ... those people are already genetically equipped for it, and someone who is not, drops out way before that because they can't withstand it, and training has virtually no effect. Consequently, people who are or even could be successful in cross-country skiing have to be sufficiently genetically equipped for their physiology to have the ability to adequately homeostatically respond to cold, an ability which I do not have due to genetics, end of story.
In all this, judo is a strange animal because of the combination of systems it relies on in order to be successful. A judoka with exceptional strategic skills but little endurance and strength might be able to win a fight against a much stronger and better trained judoka, by surprising him, but what is the likelihood he would be able to pull that off in round two for a second time ? Almost nihil. His contest will have been watched, taped, analyzed, and conclusions from that achieved by the coach and opponent of the next round. In running, those strategic opportunities are far less. If it is on the street like marathon, yes, some runners will do much better or much worse, depending on whether the trajectory is flat or not hilly. Other strategic opportunities are sudden acceleration to see who can follow or who can't and will crack, but that's about it, apart from environmental conditions that might greatly differ depending on country and season. In a 100 m sprint, strategic opportunities are even less. The trajectory is never hilly, and always flat. Environmental conditions still play a role, such as wind, but no one does better in headwind obviously. Humidity and temperature play a role, not just in physiological responses but also in injury proneness (the pulled hamstring). Strategy is limited and not entirely under one's control in a 100 m spring, and limited to things such as the lane one is running in; one can't change that but certain lanes are considered better than others, in particular when there is a curb, like in the 200m, due to seeing the others run and due to which lanes is first entering and coming out of the curb. In, judo, the strategic component is much higher, and so is the sometimes incommensurable factor of the referee. Track and field has photo finish, judo until recently had no such thing. The trajectory which two competitive judoka do during a contest has indefinite possibilities, and so are the responses. In a 100 m sprint, the trajectory is set, and the possibilities limited to slow or fast start slow or fast ending, but those are more genetically determined than strategically. The distance is simply too short to intentionally start slow and end fast; in other words, those who do, do so because that are their limits.
Watched a national elite judo team in preparation for the last Olympics. There were ropes hanging from the ceiling in the dojo. Saw the -60 kg Olympic hopefuls with a big smile running towards the ropes climb up the rope just with their hands, down without stepping on the ground, up again, down, again, up again and down again. Climbing up the ropes just by your hands three times without stepping on the ground. You see a +100 kg guy do that ? You see a -100 kg or even a -90 kg guy doing that ? Sure, you might know some exception, but normally, no way. Genetics. Genetics, that can't be overcome since the -100 kg guy cannot possibly cut weight to -60 kg. The -60 kg may be 5'3 whereas the -100kg my stand 6'5. Can't be overcome by work ethic. What can be overcome by work ethic is how that particular -100 or +100kg player performs on ropes in comparison to other players of the same weight, assuming that they have a similar proportion of lean body mass and other similar anthropometric characteristics.
Genes are crucial, but I would not call it "gene lottery". Just the fact that someone has superbe genes do not make him or her Olympic athlete, but it is not a mere issue of work ethic. It can also be an issue of interest. My ex was an excellent slalom skier and runner, but she just hated competition and did not want to do it, period. Then there is the issue of choice of sport. What if Aleksandr Karelin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksandr_Karelin) one day would have decided to compete in judo. There's a great likelihood he would have become one of the most successful and unbeatable judo champions, but ... he did not enter judo. His choice. So, another factor besides genetics and work ethic ...
So, certainly, lots of things to say, lots of things to add, but ... no lay person can in here still see the wood for the trees, and that is what I wanted to avoid with my initial post. I wanted to provide a simple usable thing, caveat for those which I called "not normal" such as those who represented the elite among the elite, and this for reasons I hope to have clarified somewhat better now.
Last edited by Cichorei Kano on Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:50 am; edited 5 times in total