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April 16, 2003

Born to Run

Senior contributing writer for Sports Illustrated Frank Deford ponders the genetic potential of the expected baby from pregnant, Olympic medal winning (5 medals/3 gold), sprinter Marion Jones and 100-meter world-record holder Tim Montgomery. Deford wonders if a new Olympian is on the way, or if "regression to the mean" will take-over. (NPR/audio file)

Posted by Jason Malloy at 06:48 AM

A similar question could be asked about the offspring of Andre Agassi and Stefi Graf; will she be a tennis champion considering her genetic baggage? When asked about the genetic makeup of his child (Jaden), Andre quipped: "you haven't seen the rest of my family!"

Posted by: nietzsche at April 16, 2003 07:28 AM

Yes, but genetic recombination during reproduction is a highly statistical phenomenon, so the statistical rules apply fairly well to the biological phenomenon.

Here's a rough analogy. Say you and I are playing a poker game in which we are both dealt ten cards and have to assemble the best hand of five cards out of our ten cards. I come up with a five card straight and you come up with a five card straight. We then take just those twenty cards and reshuffle them and deal out ten cards to each of us. What are the chances that these "daughter" hands will contain straights? I would guess that the answer is better than random hands dealt from a full-sized deck, but way below 100%. The answer is no doubt the same for the offspring of these sports hero marriages.


Posted by: Steve Sailer at April 16, 2003 01:47 PM