Height is not everything in sports; it’s the only thing.To illustrate this rule, one can examine the heights of the past 10 Olympic decathlete champions. Many consider the champion decathlete to be the world’s finest athlete. He must be proficient at 10 track and field events, and compete in these events in a gruelling two-day competition.
He can sprint, throw, and leap within a reasonable standard deviation from the Olympic specialists, and must do so within the compressed time constraints of an Olympic schedule. To be world class in these events takes an exceptional athlete, one who is blessed with both genetics and a broad skillset. Genetically, these Olympic champion decathletes share one thing: height.Of the past 10 Olympic champion decathletes, all stand at least 5’11” tall.
Dan O’Brien, the tallest of the bunch, stands a long 6’2”. Bryan Clay is the stockiest of the bunch, standing a bit under 6’0”. Ashton Eaton, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder, meets the middle at 6’1”. This remarkable consistency in the athlete’s heights is mostly due to the nature of the sport.
They must have the leverage of a thrower, the stride of a sprinter, and the length of a jumps specialist. Thus, having a consistent height (not too tall, but not short) means that the decathlete will be able to replicate the forms of the specialists at a high level. A shorter athlete would never be able to compete in the decathlon, as their compensation for one event would lead to inferior results in other events.
The decathlete must be consistent in all 10 events, and if they can stand at a height that falls between a javelin thrower and a middle distance runner, then this athlete will have the necessary physicality to compete on a consistently world class basis. 6’0”, which is about 3” greater than the average North American male, seems to be this mandatory number.
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