Height in sports
Height can significantly influence success in sport depending on how the design of the sport is linked to factors that are height-biased due to physics and biology. The balance of the intricate array of links will determine the degree to which height plays a role in success, if any.
Advantages for below average height include:
- Faster reaction times (shorter neural networks)
- Greater strength to weight ratio
- Faster limb acceleration
- Greater endurance
- Greater power to weight ratio
- Faster rotational capability
- Greater agility
- Greater balance and lower centre of gravity
- Lower risk of heat exhaustion
Advantages for above average height include:
- 1 Amateur wrestling
- 2 Artistic gymnastics
- 3 Association football
- 4 Australian rules football
- 5 Baseball
- 6 Basketball
- 7 Cricket
- 8 Cycling
- 9 Fencing
- 10 Formula 1
- 11 Gridiron football
- 12 Ice hockey
- 13 Judo
- 14 Mixed martial arts
- 15 Rowing
- 16 Rugby football
- 17 Sailing
- 18 Sumo
- 19 Swimming
- 20 Taekwondo
- 21 Tennis
- 22 Volleyball
- 23 Weightlifting and bodybuilding
- 24 References
Height can be both helpful and detrimental in wrestling. Since taller people have more bone mass, they will generally be slightly weaker than shorter people in the same weight class. This difference is made up in part by their longer arms, which allow them a longer reach and easier cradle. Long legs are detrimental in that they can easily be attacked by a lolly (shot). They do, however, assist in performing some actions and positions such as throwing, sprawling to counter a takedown or riding legs. The heights of amateur wrestlers vary greatly with successful athletes being as short as Alireza Dabir at 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and as tall as Alexander Karelin at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in).
In artistic gymnastics, it is advantageous to be shorter. A lower center of gravity can give an athlete better balance. A smaller athlete may also have an easier time manipulating their body in the air.
In Association football, or soccer, a player's height may somewhat determine the position that they play; however, people of all heights have an equal opportunity to excel professionally at the sport. Goalkeepers, centre backs and "target" heading forwards tend to be taller, while players in wide, central and attacking positions tend to be shorter. A study of the greatest male players in history showed that the distribution of heights approximated the "average man" and, when also looking at the typical weight distribution, an estimated 95% of the world's population would fall into the body type distribution of great footballers. A sample of reasonably select players from ages 11–18 in the USA tended to approximate the height distribution of the population. However, there is an overwhelming tendency for the 11 most picked players in a squad to be shorter than their team-mates, which could suggest a bias in the scouting system.
For wide, central and attacking positions the players are generally relatively shorter. Many of the best players in history have been shorter than average and in many cases gained an advantage from their low center of gravity, e.g., Maradona 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)); Roberto Carlos, Santi Cazorla 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in); Garrincha, Lionel Messi, Romário 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in); Puskás, Makélélé, Iniesta, Xavi 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and Paul Scholes 1.71 m (5 ft 7 in). However, height is generally considered advantageous for some forwards who usually aim to score with their heads, such as Tor Hogne Aarøy, Jan Koller, Stefan Maierhofer and Nikola Žigić (2.02 m (6 ft 7 1⁄2 in)) as well as Peter Crouch (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)). In some cases forwards with supreme technical ability and pace are also tall, such as Cristiano Ronaldo (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)), Kaka (1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)), Zlatan Ibrahimović (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), with their height being seen as an added bonus for their heading ability, which adds to their completeness, something desirable in modern top-level football forwards.
Height is often an advantage for central defenders who are assigned to stop forwards from scoring through the air, as exemplified by players like Matej Bagarić (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)), Per Mertesacker (1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)), Brede Hangeland (1.99 m (6 ft 6 in)), Christoph Metzelder (1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in)) and Christopher Samba (1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)). There are, however, central defenders who aren't of above average height, such as Franco Baresi (1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)), Fabio Cannavaro (1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)), Javier Mascherano (1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)) and Iván Córdoba (1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)).
Goalkeepers tend to be taller than average because their greater armspans and total reach when jumping enable them to cover more of the goal. Examples of particularly tall keepers include Kristof Van Hout (2.08 m (6 ft 10 in)), Vanja Iveša, Željko Kalac, Goran Blažević, Andreas Isaksson, Edwin van der Sar (1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in)), Petr Cech (1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)), Vladimir Stojković and Doni. In addition, there are examples of successful goalkeepers who are not significantly taller than average, such as Jorge Campos (1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)), Óscar Pérez (1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in)), René Higuita (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)), Fabien Barthez (1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)), and Iker Casillas (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)).
Australian rules football
In Australian rules, a footballer's height is considered a large advantage. This is evidenced by statistics and trends from the professional (Australian Football League) level, including an average player height of 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) as well as an ongoing trend in the recruitment of tall athletes from other sports, particularly basketball such as Dean Brogan at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)  and rugby football such as Mike Pyke at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m).
In the sport players frequently compete for possession of the ball above the shoulders. Players gain "free kick"s from a marking, that is, catching the ball in the air from a kick. As such, height combined with a vertical leap ability are advantageous attributes. Long arms assist in marking and ruckwork and defensive spoiling and long legs add leverage for long distance kicking - all key components of the sport.
Each Australian rules football team has at least one ruckman, a specialist position requiring height and leap. These player contest first possession of the ball or "hit out" after each goal or when the ball bounces out of the playing arena. At professional AFL level, the average height of ruckmen is over 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in) tall. In addition, "key position" players also gain significant advantage in height. Attacking key positions such as centre half-forward, such as Lance Franklin at 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) and full-forward such as Tom Hawkins at 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) gain an advantage by being taller than their opponent centre half-back such as Heritier Lumumba at 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and full-back such as Mal Michael at 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and vice versa.
Shorter players may have an advantage in the "crumbing" role of retrieve the ball from the ground or utilising pace to evade opponents. However taller players may also have these abilities and as such versatile talls are often favoured by professional recruiters (such as in the AFL Draft).
Brownlow medal winners have ranged in height from Tony Liberatore at 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) to Scott Wynd at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m). In 2013, professional AFL players ranged 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) to 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m).
In baseball, being taller usually means longer legs, which power pitchers use to generate velocity and a release point closer to the plate, which means the ball reaches the batter more quickly. The ball also comes from a higher release angle opposed to a shorter pitcher. While taller position players have a larger strike zone, most position players are at least of average height because the larger frame allows them to generate more power.
Taller players are often thought to have an advantage in basketball because their shots have less distance to travel to the basket; they start out closer to the rebound; and their ability to reach higher into the air yields a better chance of blocking shorter players' shots.
Empirically, the over-representation of extremely tall athletes in Basketball lends credence to the theory that the sport provides tall players with a very significant advantage. The average American male is 5 foot 10 inches, and 99% are 6 foot 4 inches or shorter. Yet, the average NBA Basketball player height is 6 foot 7 inches. 42% of American males are 5 foot 9 inches or shorter, but only 0.45% of NBA players fall into this category.
Despite this, some shorter players have played, and even excelled, in the NBA. The list includes 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) Muggsy Bogues, 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) Earl Boykins, 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) Spud Webb, and 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) Nate Robinson. The latter two have also been crowned as NBA slam dunk contest champions, with Robinson being the only 3-time winner.
Shorter players also have their own advantages. Shorter players tend to be more capable shooters as opposed to taller player. However it should be noted that "shorter" could be considered any height below 6 foot 8 inches (203 cm) and "taller" any height above 6 foot 10 inches (208 cm) - with current players such as Kevin Durant (6 foot 9) and Kevin Love (6 foot 10) demonstrating that this is not always relevant. The issues very tall players have with shooting has given rise to infamous tactics such as Hack-a-Shaq. With taller players intentionally fouled at the end of games in hopes that they miss free throws and allow the opposing team an opportunity to overtake the leading team. Thus excellent free throw shooters can become more important during end-game situations. In addition, a lower center of gravity allows greater ability to box out opponents for rebounds. Charles Barkley was considered to be undersized for his position at 6 foot 6 (198 cm), but was nevertheless a powerful rebounder. As for guards, usually being the shortest position in basketball, they have better control over their dribbling, and taller players often struggle to defend against their dexterous ball handling and speed. At the same time, they can disrupt the opposing teams' offensive flow or even steal the ball to create fast breaks and offensive opportunities.
In cricket, some of the great batsmen like Donald Bradman 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), Sachin Tendulkar 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) and Sunil Gavaskar 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) are or were below average height. This may be because a smaller body makes for an advantage in footwork and balance. Similarly, the most graceful wicket-keepers have tended to be average height or below. Although there are fewer tall batsmen, the stand-outs are often noted for their heavy hitting and an ability to get a long stride forward to reach a full length delivery. Australia's Matthew Hayden at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) and West Indies' Chris Gayle at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) are modern examples of powerful, tall batsman. Past greats like Clive Lloyd and Graeme Pollock were above 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in).
On the other hand, many of the most successful fast bowlers have been well above average height; for example past greats Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh, and Curtly Ambrose were all approximately 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in) tall. Similarly, Glenn McGrath, also regarded as one of the finest bowlers to play the game, was 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) tall, well above average height. in this regard example of Wasim Akram may also be put forward who was 6 feet 4 inches. Taller bowlers have access to a higher point of release, making it easier for them to make the ball bounce uncomfortably for a batsman. For extreme pace however, bowlers tend to be close to 5'11" such as Dale Steyn at 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), Shoaib Akhtar at 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), Malcolm Marshall at 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) thus combining advantage of shorter lever arms for pace generation with good ball release height. Since round arm bowling does not gain much advantage from taller release height, round arm bowlers tend to be shorter such as the classic Lasith Malinga at 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in). The fastest modern bowlers have ranged from Fidel Edwards 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) through to Dilhara Fernando at 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), and Steve Harmison and Shaun Tait at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in).
Height does not appear to be an advantage to spin bowling and few international spinners are ever much taller than 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in). Tall spin bowlers like Sulieman Benn (2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)) use extra pace and bounce, whereas spin is traditionally about using a looping, plunging trajectory at slow (70–90 km/h or 40–60 mph) speeds. The most successful bowlers ever in Test cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne are 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) respectively. for extracting bounce height is useful bowlers like Steven finn (2.00 m) Boyd rankin(2.02m)get benefit from their height players who are above six foot are Stuart Broad (1.98m) Mitchell starc (1.95m) Josh hazlewood (1.96m) Ishant Sharma (1.93m) Morne morkel (1.95m)Jason holder (2.02m) and the tallest ever Mohammad Irfan(2.16m)
Road racing cyclists can be of all heights but their height generally determines what role they choose. Taller cyclists tend to excel at the cobbled classics, as pure power helps get over the difficult and brutal cobblestones. Cyclists over 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) often understand the difficulties in hilly races, and realise their talents in cobbled classics from an early age and focus on them for their careers. This includes Johan Vansummeren 1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in) Taylor Phinney 1.97 m (6 ft 6 in) and Magnus Bäckstedt 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in). In recent years Paris–Roubaix has been dominated by Fabian Cancellara 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) and Tom Boonen 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in).
Smaller cyclists on the other hand dominate mountain stages of Grand Tours. Their lack of body mass helps as it means they have less weight to carry up the steep inclines. Marco Pantani 1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Domenico Pozzovivo 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in), Joaquim Rodríguez 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Nairo Quintana 1.67 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Gilberto Simoni 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), José Rujano 1.62 m (5 ft 4 in) and Igor Antón 1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) are examples of pure climbers.
However none of the above mentioned small climbers are known for their time trialing abilities, and in this slightly taller climbers, known as all rounders often gain the advantage in grand tours. Richie Porte 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in), Alberto Contador 1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in), Miguel Indurain 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in), and Denis Menchov 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) have all won long Time trial stages in many races. Alejandro Valverde 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in), Samuel Sánchez 1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in) and Vincenzo Nibali 1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in) are, on top of their climbing and time trialing abilities, 3 of the world's best descenders.
In recent years taller cyclists with low builds have become among the world's best climbers, particularly on long gradual climbs. The best examples of this are Ivan Basso 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in) who won on the Monte Zoncolan in 2010, Mauricio Soler 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), Chris Froome 1.86 metres (6 ft 1 in) winner of the 2013 Tour de France, and the brothers Andy Schleck and Fränk Schleck both 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) who specialise on the Alpine stages of the Tour de France.
While there are exceptions to these rules, taller climbers do feature more in cobbled races and smaller riders in mountain stages. But where cycling does become indiscriminate height wise, is in sprinting. Sprints have been contested between Robbie McEwen 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and Mario Cipollini 1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in), or Mark Cavendish 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) and Andre Greipel 1.84 m (6 ft 1⁄2 in), or as the 2010 Milan – San Remo between Óscar Freire 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and Tom Boonen 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in).
In fencing, it is generally advantageous to be taller because a longer arm span allows one's weapon to reach one's opponent's body from a further distance – although, differences in height can be mitigated in sabre or foil, because those weapons have rules such that hitting first does not necessarily result in points. Height also comes with a larger target to defend. In épée, height poses a debatable advantage as the entire body is a target, and the closest point of the body (the hand) is always a sword's distance away.
The average height is around 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in). 13 of the 14 F1 seasons in the 21st century have been won by a drivers under 1,80 cm tall, including Fernando Alonso 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher 1.74 m (5 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Kimi Räikkönen 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) and Sebastian Vettel 1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in) with the exception of Jenson Button (1.82 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in)).
As F1 has strict size regulations for cars, designing cars for shorter drivers is easier. Shorter drivers also tend to be lighter which is seen as an advantage. This advantage has changed from season to season as FIA has altered the rules for minimum weight of the cars.
In American and Canadian Football, a tall quarterback is at an advantage because it is easier for him to see over the heads of large offensive and defensive linemen while he is in the pocket in a passing situation. At 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in), Doug Flutie was initially considered to be too short to become a NFL quarterback despite his Heisman Trophy-winning success at the college level. In addition, shorter quarterbacks have an advantage with their lower center of gravity and balance, which means they are better able to duck under a tackle and avoid a sack. According to the former Washington Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, being shorter means you can throw the ball higher instead of a sidearm release, meaning it is harder for the defense to knock it down. Shorter quarterbacks also generally have a quicker release time than taller quarterbacks.
Tall wide receivers have an advantage of being able to jump considerably higher than shorter defensive backs to catch highly thrown passes. Of course, this advantage has limits because exceedingly tall receivers are normally not as agile or lack overall speed or strength. Tight ends are usually over 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) because they need greater body mass to be effective blockers and greater height is an advantage for them as receivers, since they run shorter routes based less on speed. By contrast, shorter defensive backs are utilized because of their typically greater agility, as the ability to change directions instantly is a prerequisite for the position.
Offensive and defensive linemen tend to be at least 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) and are frequently as tall as 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in) to be massive enough to effectively play their positions. Height is especially an advantage for defensive linemen, giving them the ability to knock down passes with their outstretched arms.
Short running backs are at an advantage because their shorter stature and lower center of gravity generally makes them harder to tackle effectively. In addition, they can easily "hide" behind large offensive linemen, making it harder for defenders to react at the beginning of a play. Thus, in the National Football League and in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football, running backs under 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) are more common than running backs over 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in). Former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, thought by some to be the greatest running back in history, is a classic example of a running back with an extraordinarily low center of gravity, as he stood only 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in).
While the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) is filled with shorter players who achieved greatness (Theo Fleury, Martin St. Louis), and the highest scorer in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky, is 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) tall and played at 185 lb (84 kg), the game's increasingly physical style has put a premium on imposing players, particularly over 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) tall and over 100 kg (220 lb) (Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Chris Pronger). Taller, bigger players have a longer reach, are more able to give out and sustain body checks, and have greater leverage on their shooting such as a slap shot (examples include Tyler Myers at 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and Eric Staal, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, and Joe Thornton, all at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m). The average height of an NHLer is just over 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall. Zdeno Chára, at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL. In recent years, the height of goaltenders has increased as taller goaltenders can cover a larger portion of the goal when on their knees in the butterfly goaltending style. Ben Bishop at 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) is the tallest goaltender currently in the NHL.
In judo height can work both ways. The shorter person tends to have an advantage (both offensively and defensively) in hip throws, dropping techniques i.e. drop seoi nage and wrestling style pickups such as ura nage. A low center of gravity allows better position for these throws. Taller players have an advantage in sweeps because they can often use these maneuvers before getting in range of the shorter person's kuzushi. They can also use their long legs to their advantage with many ashi waza techniques and throws with a significance on legs such as uchi mata and harai goshi. In ne waza (groundwork) having shorter limbs makes it more difficult to be submitted but also more difficult to use your legs to escape from hold downs. In contrast being taller can help with escaping hold downs and certain submissions i.e. sangaku jime. The 2013 judo rules somewhat shift or even out the advantages that shorter fighters had by no longer allowing leg grabs and no longer being allowed to prevent your opponent from taking grips.
Mixed martial arts
In mixed martial arts, taller fighters have a distinct advantage in striking, because of their increased range. Shorter fighters on the other hand, tend to be stronger than taller opponents of equal weight and tend to pack a heavier punch. Shorter fighters often have the advantage while grappling defensively. Their lower centre of gravity makes it difficult to take them down and their shorter limbs make it harder to submit them. This however works both ways with smaller fighters sometimes struggling from certain positions i.e. the guard. While height is still regarded as an overall advantage, there have been many great fighters who are shorter than average such as José Aldo, Frankie Edgar and Fedor Emilianenko, once widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world, stands less than 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), and has defeated opponents mostly taller than him, most imposing being Hong-man Choi, who stands 2.18 m (7 ft 2 in) tall.
In rowing, tallness is advantageous, because the taller a rower is, the longer his or her stroke can potentially be, thus moving the boat more effectively. The average male Olympic rower is 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in), and the average female Olympic rower is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in), well over the average height.
Height is not generally seen as an important attribute in rugby league football, often with extreme height being a hindrance rather than useful. However, recent tactics of cross-field kicking have resulted in the success of taller outside backs.
Fullbacks and halfbacks such as Andrew Johns (1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)), Billy Slater (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Brett Hodgson (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)), Brett Kimmorley (1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)), Cooper Cronk (1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)), Darren Lockyer (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Hazem El Masri (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Johnathan Thurston (1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in)), Kurt Gidley (1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)), Matt Orford (1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)), Rhys Wesser (1.74 m (5 ft 8 1⁄2 in)) and Scott Prince (1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)) are usually average height due to their speed and agility.
Israel Folau (1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)), Greg Inglis (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)), Mark Gasnier (1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in)), Colin Best (1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in)), Manu Vatuvei (1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in)), Jarryd Hayne (1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)), Krisnan Inu (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)) and Jason Nightingale (1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)) are examples of the trend in taller wingers and centres.
In rugby union, lineout jumpers, generally locks, are usually the tallest players, as this increases their chance of winning the ball, whereas scrum-halves are usually nearer the average. As examples, current world-class locks Victor Matfield, Chris Jack, Richie Gray and Paul O'Connell are all at least 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), while the sport's all-time leader in international appearances, scrum-half George Gregan, is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in).
When sailing small dinghies (rather than keelboats), the crew hiking or trapezing - essentially hanging off the side - is an important factor in keeping the boat upright and sailing it fast. A tall sailor can get their centre of gravity further out, thus providing more righting moment. For example, in the 470 class, only the crew is on trapeze, so it is beneficial to have a taller crew and a smaller skipper (because the boat requires a light overall weight). Australia's top crew of Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page exemplify this at 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) and 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) respectively.
Professional sumo wrestlers are required to be at least 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) tall. Some aspiring sumo athletes have silicone implants added to the tops of their heads to reach the necessary height. The average height for a sumo wrestler is 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), far above the national average in Japan.
Height is generally considered advantageous in swimming. Taller swimmers with longer arms are able to achieve better leverage, hence more acceleration, in the water. And also, water resistance goes down with increasing height (see Froude number).
This is especially true for freestyle. An example of a tall swimmer is Michael Phelps, at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games. The average height of the eight finalists in the 100 meter Freestyle final at the US Olympic Trials was 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m). Another exceptionally tall swimmer is Michael Groß, a German great of the 1980s who is 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) with an arm span of 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m). Notable exceptions for shorter swimmers, are Japanese Kosuke Kitajima, who at 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in) is much shorter, and with a more slender build, than a typical Olympic champion swimmer, has achieved astounding results in breaststroke, and Ricardo Prado, a Brazilian medley swimmer of 1980's, who at 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) held a world record and a world title for 400 metres medley for a number of years.
In taekwondo, a taller height gives the advantage of having a longer range and increased chance to strike a target when sparring. However due to the length of the kicks, combinations and reflexes will not be as quick when compared with a fighter standing at a shorter height. A shorter height will also increase a lower centre of gravity giving a fighter better balance.
Height is advantageous to a tennis player as it allows players to create more power when serving, and it gives tall players a greater arm span, allowing them to get to sharp-angled shots more easily. However, being tall can have some disadvantages, such as difficulty bending down to reach low volleys or striking shots close to the torso/body.
Examples of tall players are 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) Ivo Karlović, 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in) John Isner, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) Juan Martín del Potro, 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) Marin Čilić, and 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) Mario Ančić, all known for their powerful serves. However, Roger Federer 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), Rafael Nadal 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), Novak Djokovic 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in), and Andy Murray 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), the four top-ranked players in the world at the end of 2008, are all between 1.84 m (6 ft 1⁄2 in) and 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) in height. Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova are successful tall players on the women's side, all measuring 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) or taller. There have also have been some successful players that were of average size, like Rod Laver and Justine Henin, or shorter than average, such as Pancho Segura and Dominika Cibulková.
In volleyball, tall players are usually desirable, because it would be easier for them to attack or block the ball. However, shorter players usually have faster reaction time during defense and can pass the ball better. Therefore, since this game is a mixture of speed, skills and tactics, a typical team consist of players of varying height to cater for the specific roles required. The introduction of the libero since 1998 has developed the need for agile and quick-moving players who are usually of shorter stature. In professional volleyball, the men's height generally fall between 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) to 2.10 m (6 ft 11 in) while for women it is between 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) to 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in). Thus, most of them are above average height.
Weightlifting and bodybuilding
In weightlifting shorter levers are advantageous and taller than average competitors usually compete in the 105 kg (231 lb) + group. Short people also have a lower consumption of ATP and glycogen than a tall person to make the same proportional effort. So at professional level, it is more advantageous to have short stature.
In bodybuilding competitors are generally average height and below 5'10-5'7, although Arnold Schwarzenegger is 6'2. In bodybuilding height is often considered a disadvantage due to the fact that smaller bodies have a shorter range of motion in order to lift heavy weights. Smaller bodies also tend to look more filled out compared to taller builds, however taller people at the professional level tend to have the larger overall body mass. Notable body builders are: Jay Cutler 5’9, Ronnie Coleman 5’11, Phil Heath 5’9 and Franco Columbu 5’5, who at the time held many world records.
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