Aston University experts explain what it takes to make a champion for EURO 2020 podcast seriesJuly 5, 20211 min read
"It's the age-old question... you need talent, drive, and luck. I always believed 'attitude' was one of the top attributes to becoming an elite athlete, but I've changed my mind"
Professor Gavin Woodhall, Aston University
In this episode, journalist Steve Dyson chats to Professor Gavin Woodhall and Dr James Brown about how far our genetic makeup can take us in the journey to becoming an elite athlete, and how attitude makes it all possible.
Professor Woodhall looks at the question from a pharmacology and neuroscience angle. He explains the chemistry of the brain, and how neurones are wired to talk to each other. He references the importance of genetic muscle fibres but focuses on how high cognitive brain loads enable feet skills and positioning due to brain synapse connections, "pruned to be more efficient", with proprioceptors unconsciously guiding movement.
Dr James Brown looks at the question from a ‘bioscience’ perspective. He explains that there have to be genetic and physical aspects but that these take years to refine, quoting research that ‘it takes 10,000 hours training over ten years to become elite’.
He looks at family links and cites interesting monozygotic twin research that disentangles nature/nurture elements. He talks about well-known sports examples in relation to science - Tiger Woods, Robbie Fowler, Usain Bolt, Conor McGregor, Lennox Lewis and various cricketers. He mentions the YIPS (when elite sports stars start losing their edge) and how this can be overcome.