When Winning Is a Family Matter; COMPETITION: Successful Siblings Force the Focus onto the Old Debate over Nature or Nurture

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

When Winning Is a Family Matter; COMPETITION: Successful Siblings Force the Focus onto the Old Debate over Nature or Nurture


Byline: CLAIRE HILL

THE MAJORITY of people experience sibling rivalry at least once in their lives.

It may be unpleasant to be outdone by your brother or sister but the fact that most people have careers and lives which are strikingly different from their relations means it happens less often.

Yet in sport it is becoming more common to have a sibling who is most likely competing against you.

In tennis there are the unstoppable Williams' sisters, competing today in the Wimbledon women's final, as well as the Quinells in rugby, the Charltons and the Nevilles in football and the Schumachers in motor racing.

All these pairs play or played at the top of their profession and are well respected in their fields.

This sibling success raises the question of the old nature /nurture debate.

Is the reason these duos do so well down to their genetic make-up or purely because their parents raised them in a certain way.

Professor Don MacLaren from Liverpool John Moores University believes the mix of the two is very important.

``Both children will get certain genes from their parents and some of these characteristics will be helpful for sport. Even such a small thing as the parents' height could affect it. If your parents are very tall then it is unlikely you would be able to be a jockey.''

Parents' genes decide the type of muscle the child will inherit. This could be a power muscle or an endurance one. This make-up goes some way to affecting how the child will develop in sport.

Professor MacLaren said that if the children were identical twins the genes they received would also be identical. However, many of the sporting siblings are not identical twins and this could explain why one is slightly better than the other.

They could inherit different genes making them different in shape and ability.

Venus Williams, 22, at 6ft-1in is the more powerful of the sisters. She has won two Wimbledon titles, is ranked number one and has the most powerful serve in woman's tennis. Its speed has been measured at 127mph. …

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