The Sports Gene

The Sports Gene

Storyboard Description

A storyboard showing the journey Thomas took to the top.

Storyboard Text

  • Thomas Progresses Quickly 1
  • Thomas Progresses Quickly 2
  • Thomas Progresses Quickly 3
  • Our story begins with Donald Thomas boasting about how easily he can make a dunk. After listening for far too long, Carlos Mattis, the best jumper at the university, challenges Thomas to a high jump competition in which he will have to jump over the 6'6 bar. Despite the doubts in his mind, Mattis watches as Thomas easily clears the 6'6 jump. The text states, "Seven feet. Without a semblance of graceful high-jump technique –Thomas hardly arched his back and his legs flailed in the air like the streamers trailing a kite –he cleared it." (David Epstein)
  • Thomas Progresses Quickly 4
  • Thomas goes on to his first real track meet and the coach is infatuated with him. The coach insists that there's no way he could have done it, but Thomas goes on and clears all the obstacles they set for him. The text states, "And then, on the seventh high jump attempt of his life, with rigid form akin to a man riding an invisible deck chair backward through the air, Thomas cleared 7’3.25”, a Lantz Indoor Fieldhouse record." (David Epstein) Thomas continues practicing and goes on to place fourth in the Commonwealth Australia competition.
  • Thomas Progresses Quickly 5
  • Donald Thomas heads to the Osaka World Championship and encounters Stephan Holm. Holm is a well-known jumper at this point and is already a favorite. When the competition begins, Thomas begins to stumble at the start, while Stephan Holm advances quickly. The text states, "He stutter-stepped his way to a miss at 7’3” –each jumper gets three attempts at every height –lower than he jumped in that first meet at Eastern Illinois. Meanwhile, Holm was cruising, passing over 7’3”, 7’5”, 7’6.5, and 7’7.73” without a single miss, as his father watched through a video camera and pumped his fist in the stands." (David Epstein)
  • Thomas has a Long Achilles Tendon
  • Long Achilles Tendon
  • Thomas gets it together and seems to rise in the competition. Along with Stephen Holm and Yaroslav Rybakov, he attempts to get over the 7'8.5 bar. Holm and Rybavok graze the bar, while Thomas successfully makes it over. The text states, "(David Epstein) And yet, flailing his legs and with his back nearly straight, he passed 7’8.5 on his first attempt, putting his hand down behind him as if to break his fall because he was still uncomfortable with the sensation of falling backward."
  • Beyond what the other players assumed would happen, Thomas wins the Osaka Championship. Thomas reaches a massive height of 8'2, and if he had any more professional training he could have made the world record. The text states, "The guy in pole vault shoes who thinks high jump is “kind of boring” was crowned the 2007 world champion."(David Epstein)
  • In 2008, Masaki Ishikawa, a Japanese scientist, inspects Thomas's leg. Thomas has a long Achilles tendon which allows him to jump higher than the average human. Having a longer Achilles Tendon is a genetic ability, and it is the reason why Thomas rose to the top of the pole vault so quick. The text states, "Hunter has found that a longer Achilles tendon allows an athlete to get more power from what’s called the 'stretch shortening cycle,' basically compression and subsequent decompression of the springlike tendon." (David Epserin)
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