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Olympics spurs genetic athlete debate

American swim star Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals. (Photo: Associated Press)

PHOENIX -- Each year that the Olympics roll around, parents with almost no athletic ability have visions of gold medals hanging around their child's neck.

Dr. Suneil Jain has plenty of experience dealing with the best of the best. One of his clients is former Suns star Steve Nash, who is among the finest athletes to ever suit up in the NBA.

When it comes to athletes genetics help, but it also depends on the person.

"It's a combination of both," said Suneil. "You have to have the right genes in terms of lung capacity and muscle strength, but people have the ability to turn genes on and off, so athletic success is partly genes but also environment and lifestyle."

Being the offspring of a superstar athlete doesn't guarantee athletic ability, however. Suneil said many well-known athletes have overcome their genetic limitations with simply a solid diet and motivation.

"It motivates the person to achieve something and that is really good for the psyche and health."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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