The Sports Gene

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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
The Sports Gene Book Cover 2013.jpg
AuthorDavid Epstein
CountryUnited States
PublishedAugust 2013, Penguin Books
Media typePrint (hardback)

The Sports Gene is a book written by David Epstein, at the time a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, on the effects of genetics and sports training on human athleticism. Through investigative journalism, Epstein takes the reader through his experiences regarding what makes the difference between an amateur and a pro-athlete. The book was published in August 2013 by Penguin Books.


This book explores the question of nature versus nurture as it pertains to training for athletes in sports using anecdotes which favor both sides of the argument. These anecdotes are combined with the results of statistical studies to give the reader an understanding of the magnitude that biology plays in athletics. Topics such as the effects of gender, race, genetics, culture, and physical environment are discussed as contributors to success in specific sports.

The chapters are:

  1. In Search of Sports Genes
  2. Beat by an Underhand Girl: The Gene-Free Model of Expertise
  3. A Tale of Two High Jumpers (Or: 10,000 Hours Plus or Minus 10,000 Hours)
  4. Major League Vision and the Greatest Child Athlete Sample Ever: The Hard and Software Paradigm
  5. Why Men Have Nipples
  6. The Talent of Trainability
  7. Superbaby, Bully Whippets, and the Trainability of Muscle
  8. The Big Bang of Body Types
  9. The Vitruvian NBA Player
  10. We Are All Black (Sort Of): Race and Genetic Diversity
  11. The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting
  12. Malaria and Muscle Fibers
  13. Can Every Kalenjin Run?
  14. The World's Greatest Accidental (Altitudinous) Talent Sieve
  15. Sled Dogs, Ultrarunners, and Couch Potato Genes
  16. The Heartbreak Gene: Death, Injury, and Pain on the Field
  17. The Gold Medal Mutation
  18. Epilogue: The Perfect Athlete

Race and sport[edit]

Epstein explores racial differences in sports performance and argues that on a genetic-level, persons of some African groups (such Jamaicans and Kalenjins) have an advantage in some sports such as the 100 meters sprint and marathons respectively. He explores the topic by use of interviews with experts and summarizing scientific studies.


The book has generally positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, with average ratings of 4.6/5 (341 ratings), and 4.15/5 (2827 ratings).[1][2] The official website lists a number of other positive reviews published in venues such as The New York Times, Science, and The Guardian.[3]


External links[edit]