Elite Athletes: Genetics, Training or Mental Toughness?

Britain's Andrew Steele passes the baton to Robert Tobin during the men's 4 x 400 metres relay heats at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Osaka 2007. Andrew Steele is using results from a company called DNAFit to refine his training for the Commonwealth Games. (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

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What makes an athlete exceptional? As Canada develops a national strategy to identify emerging Olympians, we explore the latest research on what factors go into creating elite athletes ... and molding champions.

Decoding the Olympian genome: How Canada plans to nurture our next crop of talent


It's a question that comes up a lot during the Olympic Games:

What makes the person standing on the podium different from the person sitting at home, on the couch, watching TV?

As countries strive for medals, they consider so many different factors ... genetics, training, mental toughness, and money. And a lot of work goes into selecting and cultivating elite athletes.

17-year-old Carter Thibault is slopestyle snowboarder who has set his sights on one day competing at the Olympics. Canada doesn't have a national strategy for recruiting athletes but, that might soon change.




  • Joe Baker is Chair of the High Performance Athlete Development Research Panel for Own the Podium. He's also a sports scientist at York University. He was in Toronto.

Do you have experience with elite sport? What do you think makes one athlete more successful than another? And if money is an important factor... should we be spending more on our competitors?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Elizabeth Hoath.



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