The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

The Olympics, The Challenge

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The Summer Olympics of 2008 begin this Friday. Reader Mike asked in the comments to the post Not Old for the Olympics Part II that in addition to other performance enhancements, is it fair to have superior inherited ability?

Mike wrote,

"This was a great article pointing out the ethics of performance enhancement. Money, time, altitude chambers, and speed suits are all an advantage when others don't have them. Then, is it a fair race? I was hoping you were going to get to inherited ability … which brings up the issue that even when all food intake, psychology, training, and equipment are equal, genetics wins out, so how much pride can one take in his accomplishments knowing that a good chunk of one's success was a gift over which you can't overcome? After all, you can't make a quality chair if you're given just balsa wood! This reminds me that we shouldn't take ourselves so seriously based on the outcome of our athletic dominance over others. I should just try to improve my own performance against my previous performances."


In the Star Trek Next Generation episode "Peak Performance," a training exercise between two ships was deliberately mismatched in armaments, crew, and maneuverability. When the first officer chafed at this, asking what was the official's word for "mismatch" the reply was, "Challenge!"

In martial arts, the win does not always go to the taller or stronger person. Athletic ability needs numerous coordinated skills. If the outcome were always for the bigger or faster fighter, there would be no betting in boxing or any other sport.

Inherent ability doesn't always decide the outcome. It's not a matter of not being able to teach a pig to sing. My carpenter husband Paul can make a solid comfortable chair from balsa wood, paper, (even Jell-O™, he speculates, thanks to Mike's post) by dint of skill and love of his craft.

The "Peak Performance" episode emphasized, "The person in the superior position is expected to win. How one performs in a mismatch is precisely of interest. We don't whine about the inequalities of life."

  • To learn how to build your spirit and body, regardless of what sport you play, or even if you do no sports at all, try the book Healthy Martial Arts.
  • Don't give up if you don't want to - Why Not?


Get out there and train.

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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