This year marks the 120th anniversary of the first modern Olympic Games. In our retrospective of the past 49 Olympic Games, we have seen feats of extraordinary athletic ability performed on the world’s greatest stage. Thousands of athletes have graced the Olympic arena in the hundreds of events the Olympics offer.
While the modern day Olympics offer a range of sporting disciplines, the Games were not always diverse. Track and field dominated the Ancient Olympic Games that were held at the Sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, Greece.
The events at the Ancient Olympics that started in 776 BC included running, long jump, shot put, and primitive martial arts events such as pankration and boxing. While the ancient Olympic Games was one of the first formal recorded instances of track and field, the sport has roots in human prehistory as running, jumping, and throwing are ubiquitous forms of human physical expression.
The events of track and field encompass all forms of human athleticism. Regardless of the sport you play, your foundation is based on the evolution of ancient track and field Olympians. Even in everyday life, this emerges in the form of running to catch a bus, or jumping over puddles in the street, much like our ancestors ran to catch prey.
There are clear examples of transferable skill sets between other sporting disciplines and track and field. For example, a 100 meter sprinter is analogous to a striker in soccer, a shot put thrower to an offensive lineman in the NFL, or gymnasts and pole vaulters sharing a similar skill set.
Powerful strides, quick feet, and solid running technique are vital to excelling in sprinting and soccer. Despite the level of precise technique that is needed to weave around defenders in soccer, innate speed is key, especially at the striker position. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the world’s best strikers covered 96 meters in 10 seconds in 2012, a feat that rivals any top track performance.
The physiques of shotput throwers resemble that of NFL linemen, who use their size and power for their respective sports. Both linemen and shotput throwers use their leg strength and momentum to carry out their tasks; whether that means launching a shot, or an opposing player, as far as possible.
Track lends itself to the ultimate athletic physiology; all body types, energy systems, and movements are implicated in the diverse set of events in track and field. Although each of today’s sports have their own specific nuances, modern sport is rooted in track and field.
From Turf to Track
A prime example of the crossover between track and field and modern day sport is Jahvid Best, an NFL running back turned 100 meter sprinter now training at ALTIS. With shifts to his technique and diet, Jahvid went from being a star in the NFL to an elite track sprinter. In early April, he achieved a personal best of 10.16 seconds in the 100 meter in his 2016 season opening performance. Fast-forward to July 2016 and Jahvid is now an Olympic athlete representing St. Lucia in the 100 meter.
— Jah (@J4hvidbest) April 9, 2015
Jahvid made the switch to track due to concussions that prematurely ended his NFL career, but it was the itch for competition and the nurturing atmosphere at ALTIS that made him fall in love with his new sport. While Jahvid spent the majority of his adult life focused on training specific to his football abilities, the transition to sprinting is possible due to the athletic foundation he always relied upon during his career.
While we are attempting to advance our discovery of human potential as it relates to genetics, we needed to start with a solid foundation. By partnering with ALTIS and learning from track and field athletes across multiple disciplines, we are laying the groundwork for our understanding of how genetics can factor into training across all sports.
Having ALTIS as our first partner is extremely important, as the lessons learned from the brilliant minds of coaches, including Dan Pfaff, who helped us inform the way we use the power of genetics to help athletes. Coach Pfaff has instructed over 50 Olympians including nine medalists, as well as working with professional athletes in modern sport. His impactful consultations with players in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and PGA demonstrates the transferable nature of track and field to all disciplines. These paradigm shifting ideas from the elite coaches of ALTIS and the research findings from athlete genetics, allows us to transition this understanding to other partners. Specifically our partners at Baylor Football will benefit from the insights uncovered at ALTIS as the framework for a deeper understanding of genetic influence specific to football players and their athletic needs.
Sports have notably developed alongside human evolution, however it is evident that modern sports are ingrained in the basic human skills of running, jumping, and throwing. Although Athletigen’s roots are in track and field, the knowledge of sports genetics can be applied to all disciplines of sport. Working with partners like ALTIS and Baylor Football is just the beginning. Every discovery continues moving us forward to gaining the deepest possible understanding of genetic influence on athletes of all skill levels and disciplines.
Casey Jones is a Research & Marketing Assistant at Athletigen. He is completing his honours degree in Microbiology & Immunology from Dalhousie University in Fall 2016, and is one of the captains on the Dalhousie Tigers Football team.