The Faux-Evolution of Professional Athletes

If Jesse Owens, the gold medal winner in the 1936 Summer Olympics, competed in the 2013 World Athletics Championships 100-meter finals race, he would've finished in eighth place, 0.43 seconds behind winner Usain Bolt.

If Jesse Owens, the gold medal winner in the 1936 Summer Olympics, competed in the 2013 World Athletics Championships 100-meter finals race, he would've finished in eighth place, 0.43 seconds behind winner Usain Bolt. What happened over those 77 years? Have humans really become faster, stronger, and more powerful over time?

If Jesse Owens, the gold medal winner in the 1936 Summer Olympics, competed in the 2013 World Athletics Championships 100-meter finals race, he would've finished in eighth place, 0.43 seconds behind winner Usain Bolt. What happened over those 77 years? Have humans really become faster, stronger, and more powerful over time?

Historically speaking, professional athletes from year to year have typically displayed a betterment in their performances-shaving off time, so to speak. The prevailing belief during the mid-20th century was that if you're not good enough the way you are, then you'll never be good enough. Simply put, "You are what you are," as stated by Bob Petrich, a defensive end for the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s. Either you possessed the ability to compete on a high level or you didn't. However, with the introduction of technological advancements and new training methods, people's mindset towards sports has changed. Scientifically developed training gear, tools, and practice techniques have laid the foundation on which athletes could push their boundaries and perform at unprecedented levels.

Nowadays, all sports, to some degree, revolve around the obsessive scrutiny of training. Training sessions have become more sport-specific rather than just generalized conditioning: sprinters focus on straight-line explosive power; basketball players maximize their rotational power. In addition, training has become extremely personalized. In individual sports such as golf and tennis, coaches were rare up until the 1970s. Nonetheless, renowned tennis players such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are now supported with an entourage of coaches. In team sports throughout recent years, there has been a proliferation of notable gurus: influential coaches transforming young players into professional league prospects or resurrecting players' careers. Ken Mastrole, for instance, has built himself a career as a "quarterback whisperer," successfully turning college football quarterbacks into National Football League (NFL) prospects through personalized coaching and elite training academies. Mastrole, the founder of the Mastrole Quarterback Academy, has become a leader in an industry that has surged in recent years, providing quarterbacks with individualized coaching by primarily focusing on throwing mechanics and repeated game film reviews in search for areas of improvement.

There's also rapidly advancing technology and the increasing utilization of it. The advent of biometric sensors, gyroscopes, GPS, and heart rate monitors has allowed athletes to measure their performance and fatigue levels, automatically allowing them to revamp training quality as well as efficiency. In addition, higher-quality clothing and shoes have revolutionized countless sports. In the world of swimming, the full-body swimsuit was created with lycra-based fabrics, significantly decreasing drag resistance in the water. Sports engineering research from Sheffield Hallam University shows that the largest improvements were seen in the mens sprint events, with the full-body swimsuit causing a time decrease of 5.5% in the 50m freestyle. Though the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA )banned the swimsuit in 2010, other lycra-material swimsuits, like the jammer, latex swimming caps, and innovative swimming goggles, provide swimmers with multiple racing advantages compared to competitors decades ago.

In the world of athletics today, an athlete can become whatever he or she wants, provided they train frequently and effectively enough. There is no doubt that innate athletic ability is imperative. Yet inborn talent alone is insufficient to make you an athletic champion. Athletes work harder than ever before, except working hard isn't enough to stay in the game. In contrast to the 'former' perspective valuing intrinsic capability, players across all sports have to work smarter by making use of science and modern technology to enhance their performance and training. With the absence of technological and engineering advancements, the Olympic motto of "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (Faster, Higher, Stronger) would've been impossible-or at the very best-improbable.

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