Deon Venter

An athlete needs the right training--and the right genes. A scientist learns how to spot them

Patrick Hamilton for TIME

Brisbane geneticist Deon Venter who has commercialized a test for athletic performance at the Queensland University running track in St Lucia, Australia.

GENE MAVEN Five years ago, Deon Venter was an expert in diseases, not sports. As chief pathologist for the Melbourne-based company Genetic Technologies, he focused on genetic links to breast cancer and epilepsy. But something happened to change all that.

In 2003 a group of researchers analyzed a single gene among 429 Australian athletes and found that sprinters and other power performers were far likelier to have a version of the gene that produced high levels of a protein used to help muscles generate force at high speed. Elite athletes in endurance events like long-distance running were more likely to have...

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