Teen Jocks Slow Down as They Get Older
The Olympics in London. Credit: London 2012
Aug. 13, 2012 --
The Games of the XXX Olympiad have been filled with firsts, starting with London being the first city to have hosted the modern Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012). With the Olympic torch now extinguished, take a look at some Olympians who made history this summer.
Michael Phelps with the FINA lifetime achieve
Michael Phelps, who dominated at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Games, cemented his place in history at the London Olympics. By winning four golds and two silvers, he collected a total of 22 medals, becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. The 27-year-old Baltimore swimmer retired with twice as many golds (18) as any other Olympian. In London he was presented with the FINA (Federation International de Natation) lifetime achievement award, "The greatest Olympic athlete of all time." He retired with no regrets. "I did everything I wanted to and finished my career how I wanted to," Phelps told reporters.
Adams (left) on her way to winning the fight
Thirty-six female boxers from 23 different nations fighting across three weight divisions made history in London: They signed the death of the Games' last male-only sport. Nicola Adams from Great Britain became the first gold medalist in women's boxing at the Olympics, followed by boxers Katie Taylor from Ireland and Claressa Shields from the United States. "It's nice to have a bit of recognition for all the years I've been training. I used to look up to Muhammad Ali, and it's a great feeling to know that now kids who are just starting in the sport will have a female to look up to as well," Adams said.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates after crossi
Jamaican runner and fastest man in the world Usain Bolt anchored himself into history by becoming the first man ever to win the 100-meter and 200-meter gold medals at consecutive Olympic games. He then won a third gold for the second successive Olympic games by leading his 4x100-meter relay team to a new world record. "I'm now a living legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live," 25-year-old Bolt said.
Gymnast Gabby Douglas made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win the all-around event in the women's gymnastics competition at the Olympics. Legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi praised Douglas' gold-winning performance and the example she set for future athletes. "Thousands and thousands of African-American kids are going to go into gymnastics because of her, because they will want to be the new Gabby Douglas," Karolyi said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "With Mary Lou in 1984, her popularity doubled the number of gymnastics participants in this country. I expect a similar effect with Gabby. She came out of nowhere and is now an explosion."
Sarah Attar became the first Saudi Arabian wo
She came last in the final heat of the 800-meter, yet Sarah Attar, dressed in a long-sleeved green training top, long jogging bottoms and a white hijab, made history by being the first Saudi Arabian woman ever to be allowed by her country to run in the Olympics. "It is a historic moment. I hope it will make a difference. It is a huge step forward," Attar said.
Wojdan Shaherkani, the other woman from the S
In a series of women firsts, London 2012 marked the first time conservative Islamic nations Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei allowed their female athletes to compete at the Games.
Ben Ainslie of Great Britain during men's Fin
Great Britain's Ben Ainslie sailed into Olympic history, becoming the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time. Sixteen years after winning a silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games, the 35-year-old triumphed on home waters, winning his fourth straight gold. Ainslie was chosen to carry the flag for the British team at the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony.
Josefa Idem from Italy became the first woman
As she won the women's kayak single 500-meter semifinal against women nearly half her age, 47-year-old Josefa Idem from Italy entered Olympic history, becoming the first woman to compete in eight Olympic Games. Idem, who won an Olympic bronze medal in Los Angeles in 1984 when she was only 19, began her three-decade career in her native West Germany, but became a naturalized Italian citizen in 1992. Four years later she claimed bronze in Atlanta, then gold in Sydney in 2000 and silver at both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). In London, the Italian kayaker finished her final race of career in fifth place, just three tenths of a second from a bronze medal and under two seconds from gold. "It's never too late to dream. Never too late to get going. This is the message I wish to leave," Idem said.
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa competes in t
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at any Olympics. The 25-year-old double-amputee runner, four-time Paralympic champion, ran on his carbon-fiber blades in the men's 400-meter and was part of South Africa's 4x400-meter relay team. "It has been an unbelievable experience. I didn't come here to prove a point. I wanted to do the best I could possibly do," Pistorius said. Chosen to carry South Africa's flag at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics, Pistorius will defend his 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter titles at the Paralympic Games in London later in August.
Felix Sanchez of Dominican Republic celebrate
As he reclaimed the 400-meter hurdles crown, 34-year-old Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic became the oldest-ever winner of an Olympic Games sprint event. Sanchez took gold at Athens eight years ago but was not widely considered to be a medal contender this time around. "No one expected this. A lot of people said I should retire, but I stuck with it," Sanchez said.
Evgeniya Kanaeva of Russia. Credit: London 20
Russia's Evgeniya Kanaeva wrote her name in the record books by becoming the most successful rhythmic gymnast in Olympic history. The 22-year-old is the first woman to win two Olympic rhythmic gymnastics all-around titles, winning at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. "I have worked so hard for the last four years. I have worked hard throughout my whole childhood to be where I am today," Kanaeva said.
Venus and Serena Williams became the first pl
As they won the women's doubles champions at London 2012, Venus and her sister Serena Williams became the the greatest Olympic tennis players ever. The American pair have accumulated four gold medals each. Venus won a singles gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the pair won the doubles gold medal that year as well. They won the doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In London, Serena equaled her sister in singles competition by winning the gold. Less than 24 hours later, Serena and Venus took home the gold in doubles. "For us, it's so exciting winning the gold together. For me, it was amazing to watch Serena from the stands and see her complete the golden slam," Venus said.
Manteo Mitchell of the United States competes
U.S. athlete Manteo Mitchell performed heroically in the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries by running on a broken leg. The 25-year-old had broken the left fibula bone running the first leg in the preliminary round. "As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I wanted to just lie down," Mitchell said. Instead, he just ran on it. "It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half. It hurt so bad. I'm pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg," Mitchell said. Without Mitchell's courage and determination to finish the run, the American team would have not been able to be at the starting line in the final, where it won a silver medal.
U.S. player Lebron James dunks in a match aga
The U.S. men's basketball team made history by thrashing the Olympics record for most points scored in a game. The Americans demolished the Nigerian team 156-73.
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning gold
With the London 2012 Olympics being the most digitally connected event ever, self-proclaimed living legend Usain Bolt also triumphed on the Internet. After his 200-meter victory, the Jamaican Olympian set a new Twitter Olympic conversation record with more than 80,000 tweets per minute. Bolt himself tweeted to his 1.3 million followers: "Thanks to all my real fans and people who believe in me. I am now a living legend that's for sure."
Don't worry parents, if your child isn’t a champion athlete by adolescence, there’s still hope to become a star a few years down the road. In fact, it turns out that teenage superstars may be early-bloomers that fade away by the time they get into their mid-20s, according to a new study by researchers at Indiana University.
The study found that early athletic success is not a good predictor of later athletic success -- at least at the elite level.
"We speculate that these successful junior athletes are just early maturers," said Robert Chapman, professor of kinesiology at Indiana University. "You go to a high school track meet and you see the boy wonder, the kid who is shaving in 8th grade. Those kids are going to be successful. But we still see later age is the best performance."
Chapman and graduate student Joshua Foss examined the career performance of 65 male finalists and 64 female finalists of the 2000 Junior World Championships and a comparable number of finalists at the 2000 Olympics.
They analyzed competition data for the junior athletes from the 12 years after the 2000 Junior World Championships and at least 12 years of data for the senior athletes from before and after the 2000 Olympics. The athletes were finalists in the 100-, 200-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter races, long jump, high jump, discus throw and shot put.
Here are some of the findings:
Senior athletes performed best at a significantly later age than their junior counterparts in all four men's event groups and three of four women's event groups.
Compared to the star junior athletes, the senior athletes showed a significantly greater percentage of improvement in lifetime best performance compared to their best performances as junior athletes in six of eight groups.
Less than one-quarter of the junior athletes studied went on to medal in the Olympics.
One potential reason for this difference could be a difference in the rates of physical maturity, according to Chapman.
"If the ultimate goal is to get medals at the Olympic Games, the thought is you have to emphasis development at the junior level," he said. "But what we found in our study and seen anecdotally is that's not the case, the athletes who are successful as juniors are these precocious talents who perform well at a young age and then not continue on. Some do. But it’s a minority."
Chapman, who serves as associate director for sports science and medicine at USA Track and Field (the sport's governing body), said the results have implications for the best way to support athletes.
"In terms of spending money, you simply wait and say we're not going to support this junior championship team, will support the seniors," Chapman said.
He said the results could be extrapolated to other sports, such as swimming and cycling, or even team sports such as football and basketball. Chapman said kids who are big in high school don't always stay big compared to their peers, and there are lots of late-bloomers in the NFL, for example.
One expert says teen sports stars who start young and specialize in one sport at an early age face psychological as well as physiological fatigue.
"You have to be careful as a parent," said Greg Dale, professor of sports psychology at Duke University. "It's very tempting if your kid is talented to push them to train year-round. But you have to give them a break. I would encourage parents and athletes to think more conservatively. You want to be fresh, healthy and hungry when you are in your prime rather then burned out."
The study was presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine.