A new Olympic cycle has begun and already the next round of young stars have emerged. In America, Mary Cain has broken nearly every single age-group middle distance and distance record in route to qualifying for the US World Championships team in the 1500m as just a youth athlete. In the UK, junior Jessica Judd blazed a sub-2 minute 800 meters to win a Diamond League race on Sunday. And in Japan, 17-year old Yoshihide Kiryu broke the world junior record over 100 meters. I get excited as excited about these athletes as the next fan, but I also get frustrated when I fear the word talent mentioned so often without the slightest pause to consider what it actually means.
Last year I spent some time looking at talent identification and I came away with two main conclusions: (1) talent in the hammer throw is a complex combination of factors that is hard to measure in a test; and (2) even the most straightforward test, throwing the hammer, isn’t a great predictor since few of the top youth and junior athletes continue on to be the best adults. But while both of these discussions try to explain why it is so hard to define talent, even I did not offer a definition of what exactly talent is.
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