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Home » David Epstein: Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger – Transcript

David Epstein: Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger – Transcript

David Epstein

David Epstein is an investigative reporter who covers the wide-open space where sports, science and medicine overlap….

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TRANSCRIPT: 

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” Faster, Higher, Stronger. And athletes have fulfilled that motto rapidly.

The winner of the 2012 Olympic marathon ran two hours and eight minutes. Had he been racing against the winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon, he would have won by nearly an hour and a half. Now we all have this feeling that we’re somehow just getting better as a human race, inexorably progressing, but it’s not like we’ve evolved into a new species in a century.

So what’s going on here? I want to take a look at what’s really behind this march of athletic progress.

In 1936, Jesse Owens held the world record in the 100 meters. Had Jesse Owens been racing last year in the world championships of the 100 meters, when Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt finished, Owens would have still had 14 feet to go. That’s a lot in sprinter land.

To give you a sense of how much it is, I want to share with you a demonstration conceived by sports scientist Ross Tucker. Now picture the stadium last year at the world championships of the 100 meters: thousands of fans waiting with baited breath to see Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history; flashbulbs popping as the nine fastest men in the world coil themselves into their blocks. And I want you to pretend that Jesse Owens is in that race.

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