The Torch
6:46 am
Thu August 9, 2012

We See The Body Olympic: How Athletes Evolve Within Their Sports

Why do the best weightlifters have short arms? What's the biggest physical challenge that marathon runners face? What kind of advantages do athletes from West Africa — and from Asia — enjoy? Those questions are answered in a great post over at our sister blog, Shots.

Our colleague Adam Cole analyzed information from a range of sources to come up with conclusions about the bodies of Olympic sprinters and rowers, as well as weightlifters and marathon runners.

It's no secret that today's athletes look a bit different than the ones from 100 years ago. Adam explains some of the changes, and the reasons behind them, for a post called "Olympic Bodies: They Just Don't Make Them Like They Used To"

It's irrestible to compare athletes — and because the Olympics has been timing races and other competitions for more than 100 years, it's also possible to do it fairly reliably. The New York Times has a neat feature in which Usain Bolt is compared to every other 100-meter sprint medalist in Olympic history.

The question has also been on the mind of The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, who asks, "What on earth would Leonardo have made of Michael Phelps?"

That would be Leonardo da Vinci, who inspired a current London exhibit titled "Anatomist." Da Vince, Lane predicts, would have been "peeling Phelps apart like a tangerine" to analyze his physique.

And let's not forget ESPN the Magazine, whose "Body Issue" asked several Olympic and pro athletes probing questions about their bodies — such as, "Is there a part of your body you wish were bigger or smaller?"

As we posted yesterday, you can see how YOU compare to athletes' bodies, by entering your height and weight in a handy BBC interactive chart.

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