herald

Saturday 20 September 2014

Jamaicans built to beat the rest

Jamaica's sprint success is all in the genes -- literally, according to a joint study by researchers at the University of Glasgow and University of the West Indies.

The study found that 70 per cent of Jamaican athletes had a fast-twitch muscle gene, called Actinen A, compared to only 30 per cent of Australian athletes used as a comparison.

Errol Morrison, the Jamaican professor of biochemistry and endocrinology who led the study, said: "The question is always there. What is it, nature or nurture, that makes us so good? The answer seems to be that there seems to be a strong, underlying genetic or nature predisposition as to why we are able to perform like this.''

Morrison believes that the genetic advantage has been built on by improvements in the island athletes' diet and technique, resulting in gold medals in both the men's and women's 100m.

The prize for the most accommodating athlete of the Games must go to Yelena Isinbaeva. After successfully defending her Olympic pole vault title and treating the Bird's Nest stadium to a world record, the Russian star then spent 20 minutes signing autographs for volunteers, even agreeing to pose for pictures trackside before beginning her mixed zone duties with the press.

ONE OF the most noticeable things about these Olympics is how friendly and helpful the Chinese volunteers staffing events and venues are. It is impossible to enter a building without at least two or three welcoming you with beaming smiles or thrusting reams of information sheets in your hands the moment you sit down in the press box.

But one volunteer went beyond the call of duty at the hockey last night. Great Britain were playing USA on Pitch B -- significant as the smaller of the two stadiums has no roof.

At the start of the second half it began to rain and most of the journalists with laptops dived for the nearest cover but one decided to stay out in the open stand.

Immediately the volunteers swung into action, rolling out metres of plastic sheeting to cover the television screens and benches. But one Chinese girl went a step further, producing an umbrella and standing over the solitary journalist in the rain until the shower had subsided. Now that's dedication to the cause.

More angst about British success in the Australian press. Under the headline "Poms are winning, call an enquiry", the Sydney Morning Herald bemoans Great Britain's rise up the medal table by running through the stereotypes.

"This darkness has descended, and yet there has been no declaration of national emergency,'' it continues before demonstrating the usual failure to understand the distinction between English and British by claiming Chris Hoy (a Scot) doesn't count.

Thanks to some serious investigative journalism, the Sydney Morning Herald has uncovered the secret of British success in the Laoshan Velodrome and it is nothing to do with the brilliance of Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Romero.

Shane Sutton, cycling performance director Dave Brailsford's number two, is Australian.

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