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Updated: 9/8/2020
Unknown Story
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  • You can be naturally gifted at a sport without having any formal training. Your genes can contribute to your success.
  • Bet you can't high jump.
  • OK. Let me get my tennis shoes.
  • Carlos Mattis challenged Donald Thomas to a high jump competition. Thomas agreed to the challenge and went home to grab his sneakers. Thomas then went back to the field and cleared 7'0" without any former training. "Carlos Mattis... had enough of Thomas's lip and bet him that he could not clear 6'6" in a high jump competition... He went home and grabbed a pair of sneakers... Seven feet... Thomas hardly arched his back and his legs flailed in the air like the streamers trailing a kite -he cleared it." (Epstein 2).
  • Dope.
  • You have a long tendon.
  • Two months later, Thomas would compete at the Commonwealth Games in beat some of the best professional high jumpers in the word. In 2007, Thomas traveled to Osaka for the World Championships with only eight months of training to his name. "Two months later, Thomas competed at the Commonwealth Games in Australia against some of the best professional high jumpers in the world... He placed fourth in a world-class field... In August 2007, with a total of eight months of legitimate high jump training to his name, Thomas donned his pole vault shoes... and traveled to Osaka for the World Championships." (Epstein 5-6)
  • In Osaka, Thomas his rival, Stefan Holm, an Olympic champion. Holm didn't know who Thomas was at he time. Thomas ended up beating Holm with a height of 8'2" and was crowned the World Champion in 2007. "On his final attempt, Holm clipped the bar with the back of his legs and fell to the mat with his head in his palms... On his winning jump, Thomas raised his center of mass to 8'2"." (Epstein 11-12)
  • In 2008, scientists examined Thomas and concluded that he was gifted with a big Achilles tendon. The longer the tendon the more elastic energy it can store. The tendon allows athletes to get more power from the "stretch shortening cycle.'" "...Holm's Achilles tendon was a more normal sized, incredibly stiff spring, Thomas's, at ten and a quarter inches, was uncharacteristically long... a longer Achilles tendon allows an athlete to get more power from what is called the "stretch shortening cycle." (Epstein 13 & 15)
  • Although Holm spent 20 years perfecting his craft, Thomas still beat him. In that time, Thomas had already accomplished more than Holm. In the next six years, Thomas would not progress and Holm would. " But the tendons are one puzzle piece that helps explain how two athletes could arrive at essentially the same place, one after a twenty-year love affair with his craft, and the other with less than a year of serious practice after stumbling into it on a friendly bet. Interestingly, Thomas has not improved one centimeter in the six years since he entered the professional circuit. Thomas debuted on top and has not progressed." (Epstein 17)
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