Sports TED Talk review : Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?


About David Epstein

David Epstein is an investigative reporter at ProPublica and the author of the New York Times bestselling book “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance”. He previously was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Twitter: @DavidEpstein

What is it about?

While we have gotten faster and stronger as a race over the last century or so, have we really gotten better? Or is performance improvement in sports a result of, a combination of factors that explain the time differences between Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt?

In fifteen minutes David Epstein helps you spot trends and patterns that explain the remarkable improvements in sports performance through a series or examples, stories and startling facts that leave you entertained and humbled.


Kind of stuff you learn

Epstein looks at the following factors and their impact on the improvement in records and performances in various sports:

The record for the 100m freestyle in swimming has crashed significantly at three major points — the introduction of flip turn in 1956, the introduction of gutters at the side of the pool in 1976 and introduction of full body and low friction swim suits in 1998.

Gene Pool
17 American men in history have run the marathon under 2 hours 10 minutes in history. 32 men from the Kalenjin tribe in Kenya achieved that feat in October 2013

Kilian Jornet can run up and down the Materhorn — a vertical ascent of 8000 ft in under 3 hours. Human beings learn more and more about what is possible, prepare for it and go for it with the best possible conditions and assistance.

Got us thinking about

  1. Start-ups focused on improvement in performance through technology
  2. How India — and by extension each country has fared in using these three performance drivers in their sports structures
  3. What are the athletic feats that seem impossible to achieve today, but will become commonplace in ten years?


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