Olympics, genetics, and giving everything you have

More Olympics this weekend. First the U.S. basketball team, ahead most of the game and playing well, then losing in the last few minutes. Next, the women’s marathon, the heartbreak for England’s Paula Radcliffe as she couldn’t finish the race after leading the runners for the first dozen miles, then the come-from-behind bronze metal finish for the U.S.’s Deena Kastor.

Last week, Matt Haughey wrote about the genetic lottery:

“Every sport favors genetics to some extent, but I’ve always discounted them and held that anyone of any shape could rise towards the top if they trained hard enough. But at the absolute upper reaches of a sport, falling outside the norm becomes a liability and when the margin of error grows thin, you’re going to fall behind the best.”

I always think of Gattaca. Sure it’s fiction, but I think there’s some real truth to it — the power of the human spirit. The two brothers are far out in the water, and Anton asks Jerome how is he doing it, how can he swim further and do these great things when he is genetically inferior and all stats point to a heart that is long overdue for beating its last. The answer: “You wanted to know how I did it? That’s how I did it, Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.”

Give it your all this week.