Body types

Back when I used to compete in some bike events as a teen, I remember that the sport tended to favor shorter than average men, and even at the local level, the majority of top guys fell into a pretty small range of body size and type. At the state and national level, the distribution was even smaller, with almost every competitor being about 5′ 6″.

It’s kind of fun to watch the olympics and notice that on a global stage, the distributions seem to fall the same way, with each sport favoring a certain body type and seemingly 90% or more of the contestants looking just about the same. The women’s beach volleyball is where it seems most obvious. You see tall, thin, tan women that look as if they all just stepped off a beach in Southern California. Then you see that they’re from China, or Japan, or Switzerland, as well as the US. Men’s and Women’s gymnastics, swimming, and diving all seem to favor a pretty narrow body type as well. Anyone that’s ever watched college women’s softball knows there’s a body type for that sport as well, and it’s also easy to see the teams around the world fall into it.

Every sport favors genetics to some extent, but I’ve always discounted them and held that anyone of any shape could rise towards the top if they trained hard enough. But at the absolute upper reaches of a sport, falling outside the norm becomes a liability and when the margin of error grows thin, you’re going to fall behind the best.

I’ve always been an idealist that believed anyone could become president of the US, a pro baseball player, or the next Bill Gates, but when it comes to global competitve sports, it seems like winning the genetic lottery is almost always required if you really want to be the absolute best.