7 years ago, when Britain had only just won the right to host the Olympics, the sports functionaries were set the task of finding a new approach to selection and training of athletes, so as to guarantee a steady stream of gold medals in the country’s most important Olympic Games of the 21st century.
Thus, an unorthodox plan emerged: to offer a second chance to people who had not yet shown any record achievements in a given sport at school stadiums.
Until now Great Britain had followed the precept – only those who had dedicated their life to sports from an early age could aspire to become Olympic champions. For example, like 32-year old Bradley Wiggins, who consistently won prizes at summer Olympics, beginning with the Sydney Games in 2000. It’s known that Bradley began training at the age of 6, spinning the pedals of his bike in the living room of his parents’ house, and thus accumulating an impressive 10 thousand hours by the time he came of age.
Approximately the same – 10 thousand hours of training, according to estimates of British psychologist and sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, were put in by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, chess champion Bobby Fischer, and the iconic band The Beatles to achieve worldwide success.
However, the British coaches did not have at their disposal that much time to rear champions. So that is when mathematics and statistics came to their aid. Great Britain’s Olympic committee sent queries to 60 organizations, such as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Royal College of Surgeons and the European Space Agency, to seek out hidden talents among members of these communities.
According to the theory, Olympic champions could be reared from able-bodied Britons even if these were not particularly young people. The main requirement was that they possess the ability to quickly build up potential at enhanced training sessions 7 days a week, 7 hours a day.
Moreover, it did not matter what type of sport they had been involved in previously, and how good their results had been. Thus, current Olympic champion in the tennis tournament Andy Murray was selected on a football field. Experts say that football had helped Murray develop peripheral vision – something that came in handy in tennis. Peter Wilson, Britain’s gold medalist in shooting, initially played cricket, and was quite a mediocre player at that. While Britain’s gold medalist in rowing Heather Stanning picked up the paddle for the first time just 4 years ago. Prior to that she had served in the army – which is where the talent scouts discovered her.
However, if according to one theory any Briton can be reared to become an Olympic champion, other evidence shows that the circle of such people is rapidly shrinking, displaying a glaring division of British society into classes. Sport in Britain is fast becoming elitist instead of publicly accessible. In 2000 at the Olympics in Sydney just 23,6% of the British medal-winners were graduates of private schools. At the current London Games, their number has risen to 40%. According to the local press, private educational establishments of Great Britain can afford to maintain large sports facilities on their territory complete with swimming pools, football and cricket fields, ensuring that daily sports become an inherent part of the curriculum, while students of public schools do not have such opportunities.