David Epstein at Sports Illustrated rounds up expert opinions about what he calls "the genetic playbook." In speaking with various geneticists, Epstein notes that all humans are distance runners from an evolutionary standpoint, and that "as more and more genes with subtle effects on athleticism have been identified, the predictive value of any single-gene test for talent … has fallen essentially to nil." Yannis Pitsiladis, a biologist at the University of Glasgow, has been collecting DNA samples from record-holding athletes for 10 years. "Pitsiladis has begun scanning these genomes for performance genes, so that humanity might know the slate upon which nurture can etch greatness," Epstein writes -- though, as it turns out, when examining 24 genetic variants associated with sprinting and/or endurance skills, Pitsiladis found that one of his graduate students "'has a better rating for sprinting than the likes of an Asafa Powell or Usain Bolt'" — hypothetical examples of record-holding sprinters, for privacy considerations — he told SI's Epstein.
Katherine Hobson at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog summarizes the article succinctly. "SI says genetics, the environment and elements usually chalked up to personality, like motivation or willpower, may interplay in ways we can’t even imagine," she writes.