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The bodies of Olympic athletes are becoming more specialised, more differentiated – and much more extreme.
Darwinian “survival of the fittest” means that the bodies of Olympic athletes are becoming more specialised, more differentiated – and much more extreme.
The gold medal shot-putter from the 1896 Games, American Robert Garrett, weighed 81 kilograms; the 2008 and 2012 champion, Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, weighed in at 142kg.
Like galaxies in our expanding universe, the body sizes and shapes of Olympians have been moving apart from each other at light-speed, and have become increasingly specialised and differentiated. Excluding swimmers who have also played water polo (which count as different sports, but really require similar body shapes), 39 athletes have won medals in more than one sport at the Summer Games. In the early days of the Olympics, athletes won medals in exotic combinations of sports, such as athletics and tennis (Australian Teddy Flack in 1896), or shooting and weightlifting (Viggo Jensen, Denmark, 1896).
Social, economic and technological factors are all driving this expanding universe of sporting bodies, this “search for size”. In 1896, it’s likely there would have been just one young man in Australia over two metres tall. The Buffalo Germans won the national amateur tournament at the 1904 St Louis Olympics, where basketball served as a demonstration sport. The pool of potential sportspeople has been expanding even faster as sport has become globalised.
Better transport and telecommunications, more aggressive recruitment policies and higher wages also help.
Between 1945 and 1980, elite American footballers earned between five and ten times the median male wage — nice work if you could get it. But even the lure of huge amounts of money (last year the number one rookie pick in the NBA had a starting salary of $US4.9 million) has its limits.
At the same time, training and supplementation – nutritional and otherwise – has also changed Olympic bodies. In the years since, it has increased at more than five times that rate — 1.6 units per decade. But the new frontiers of size may be genetic: there are already athlete sperm and egg banks, plans to use gene therapy to block the muscle growth inhibitor myostatin, and talk of cloning athletes. Torah Bright is one of many Australian women competing in the Winter Olympics and challenging perceptions about women in sport.
But those authors, though they got my attention, weren’t the reason I purchased the book. The second is that someone will miraculously emerge to take care of you – to lend you money, feed you, put you up for the night, lead you to where you want to go. Before you pick up this book, close your eyes for a second and think of a time when you felt scared, lost, or possibly at the mercy of those around you.
Now, imagine how you would have felt if someone came to help you with the purest of intentions and without a desire for remuneration for their assistance. We can hope that strangers will always be kind, but despite Don George’s book, it is unfortunately not always the case. I had never thought too much about people’s motivations behind helping me before, or my own behind helping strangers. Sign up for Vagabondish updates and receive our freshest stories, exclusive travel deals, and loads of pretty pictures + inspiration!
The north side of Beartooth Pass is a long climb into the Beartooth Mountains in southern Montana that finishes in Wyoming. Logistics: The climb begins in Red Lodge, Montana, where the historic Pollard Hotel (from $75 a night) is a great base for operations. In March 2016, the New York Times featured a column on two books concerning the eugenics movement at the start of the 20th Century. Coincidentally, in the same month that books were published on eugenics, in a separate column on a platform associated with the L.A. In her column, Karen Weingarten, criticizes the critiques leveled by those associated with the disability rights position that prenatal genetic testing amounts to eugenics.
Professor Weingarten is correct that too often women are shamed for making selective abortion decisions (though oddly she chooses to criticize the critiques of fellow writers who I expect would share much common ground with Prof. Now, before expressing my position here, I recognize that likening anything to eugenics typically undermines an argument the same as likening any political position to the second coming of the Nazis. My argument is not one based on a defense of human genetic diversity–though I have written extensively on how Down syndrome can and should be considered yet one more expression of humanity and preserved as such.


I mean this as a simple matter of fact, not as a matter of emotionally charged bomb-throwing. My critique is not on the micro level and I do not want an individual expectant mother to be labeled a modern-day member of the SS. The easy distinctions cited by defenders of prenatal testing not being eugenics typically are that [1] prenatal testing is not a part of a state program and [2] those being eliminated are fetuses, not persons making claims on the public welfare system. Your point about resorting to Nazis or eugenics as undermining arguments is well taken, but we have to see things honestly for what they are and use the language that is most descriptive of the reality.
We use a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence, so you can republish our articles for free, online or in print. In 1912, American Charles Reidpath weighed 78kg; 100 years later, Kirani James (Grenada) weighed 80kg. A hundred years ago, the same person could have won both the shot-put and the 400-metre dash. Of these, 34 won their medals in the 60 years before 1956, leaving only five in the 60 years since. These are akin to seeing Usain Bolt trying his hand at synchronised swimming, or Roger Federer on the Roman rings.
Filippo Bottino won gold for Italy in the open weighlifting at Antwerp in 1920, weighing 99kg.
From 1896 to 2016, the average weight of elite marathoners has increased by just one kilogram – from 60kg to 61kg; and their height by only two centimetres – from 169cm to 171cm. The 231cm basketballer Manute Bol was an illiterate Sudanese herdsman who had once killed a lion with his spear.
The percentage of NBA players more than 213cm (that’s seven feet) tall had increased from about 1% in the 1940s and 1950s to about 10% in the 1990s. But that percentage hasn’t increased for 20 years: the NBA has now recruited all the players in the world with exceptional height and at least some shred of basketball talent.
In any suburban gym today, you’ll see bodies as muscular as the sprinters from the 1960 Rome Olympics shown in J.M.
Between 1920 and 1979, the body mass index (BMI, weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared) of American footballers increased at the rate of 0.3 units per decade. Extraordinary bodies are highly saleable commodities, and we’re unlikely to see the rapid demise of growth-modifying drugs or extreme training methods. If that happens, the boundaries of the expanding universe of Olympic bodies will recede even further. It’s an anthology by Lonely Planet editor Don George and includes stories by heavy-hitting travel writers Jan Morris, Tim Cahill, Simon Winchester and Dave Eggers. But opposers of Machiavelli (and believers in world peace) would argue that caring, sympathy and empathy are central traits of the human race. But surviving as a group (whether of the fittest or otherwise) could also be innate to human nature.
Perhaps this was something that happens when you were in a foreign place where you did not understand the language or customs. That someone just wants to help you out of your situation so that you can continue on your way or with whatever you have to do.
In the stranger, we see ourselves; we imagine what it would be like to be as lost, scared, hungry, sick or whatever their circumstances may be. While it is impossible to ever know for a fact, and while the situation may not allow for much thinking, consider evaluating the situation to the greatest extent possible. Thus, whenever possible, do not rely on the kindness of strangers to help you out at all times.
I guess seeing yourself in another is definatly part of it (hey, that could be me…) but the survival of humans as a whole species is not something I would have even guessed at. It is never very steep but contains amazing views down into the valley as you ascend multiple switchbacks. Let’s compare how eugenics programs were justified in the past with how prenatal testing is currently administered. It covers the history of the eugenics movement: its roots and the support of the movement by those who identified themselves as politically progressives. Instead, they sought to hasten evolution by letting man decide who were the fittest to survive.
Leonard, who teaches at Princeton, the driving force behind this and other such laws came from progressives in the halls of academia — people who combined “extravagant faith in science and the state with an outsized confidence in their own expertise.” “Illiberal Reformers” is the perfect title for this slim but vital account of the perils of intellectual arrogance in dealing with explosive social issues.


But, the Germans figured, if eliminating burdens were for the greater good, then why stop with eliminating the next generation?
The book tells the story of one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by the United States legal system (that has yet to be rectified). Buck was a young lady living in Charlottesville, Virginia who had the misfortune of coming from lower economic strata and the greater misfortune of having been impregnated by a relative of a family looking after her.
Cohen’s book and look forward particularly to its exposition on the Supreme Court decision. Review of Books, another author criticized modern-day prenatal genetic testing for being called eugenics.
Weingarten attempts to hoist the critics on their own petard by explaining that if it is wrong to compel women to abort because they are diminishing the amount of genetic diversity in the world, it is also wrong to compel them to continue a pregnancy for the purpose of adding to that genetic diversity. Weingarten and does not pick lower hanging fruit of overt pro-life advocates who criticize prenatal testing for being eugenic). Weingarten that it is uncaring to use the argument of eugenics on the micro- level for shaming women for their individual choices. The testing laboratories publish these studies as do board members of professional organizations devoted to prenatal testing and as do representatives of private health systems who candidly admit they conduct these studies, but do not make them public. There is enough evidence in the historical record regarding the development of prenatal testing to label is at least initially as a eugenic effort.
Maybe the more who read it, the more who will question how and why their tax dollars are being spent in an imbalanced way that perpetuates this injustice. People have got taller –we’re about 12cm taller than we were at the time of the 1896 Athens Olympics – and the population has increased sevenfold. Several times, it has happened to me that a stranger helped, or even saved my life, when I was abroad. The circumstances are out of your control, and something that you could not possibly control has led you into your current predicament. Especially if we ourselves have experienced a similar situation, we will be more likely to help the person out. While it is not particularly flattering to think that a stranger is only helping you out because he or she sees a personal benefit, we have to consider the option. Perhaps you can get to know a stranger in a less than life-threatening situation, and I am sure you will have a much better time. Like those who honk and gesture on the road that your car has a problem and you better pull over. Put simply, Leonard says, elite progressives gave respectable cover to the worst prejudices of the era — not to rabble-rouse, but because they believed them to be true. So, they started killing the current generation, starting with the disabled and culminating in the Final Solution, the Holocaust of Eastern European Jews (and Roma, and homosexuals, and political dissenters). However, she incorrectly includes me in the writers she identifies as critiquing prenatal testing as eugenic for diminishing human genetic diversity. In California and Iowa, these states have state sponsored prenatal testing programs specifically for identifying Down syndrome. These studies are not based on how many fetuses count as costs avoided; they are based on the lives those fetuses represent if they were to be born and then would be able to access public programs. While many are now using prenatal testing as an opportunity to prepare for birth, far more are using it to eliminate those they fear they will not be able to accept.
Beyond the Golden and Hawkeye States, every other states’ Medicaid programs pay for prenatal genetic testing for Down syndrome. Meaning, are they justified for diminishing the number of claimants on the public welfare system? These cost-effectiveness studies are then cited as reasons to cover prenatal testing by private policies and public healthcare coverage follows suit.
You and your colleagues are doing an excellent job at getting good information out there to alleviate that fear, but unless we are willing to have an honest look at the origins of prenatal testing and they way it is most often used, then we will never solve the problem and grow past this horrific stain that darkens the American character. Wade were ever overturned, they would permit abortions up to the minute before delivery in the case of a fetal anomaly.




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