sprint gene

Denmark - A country of sprinters?

May 24, 2017 -

sprint gene

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Scientist have found that it is close to impossible to compete at olympic level in power sports when you are missing one specific gene - ACTN3. And over 20% of Danes have it!

The Sprint Gene

Alpha-actinin-3 or ACTN3 has been called the ‘speed’ or ‘sprint gene’ by the media due to its association with sports performance. Scientific research has shown that that individuals with zero (two disrupted) copies of ACTN3 are rare among elite sprint/power athletes. After studying hundreds of athletes, scientists came to the conclusion that it is probably impossible for someone who lacks the right ACTN3 gene variation to reach the top levels of performance in power sports. It is now even possible to predict 200 meter sprint times based on ACTN3 genotypes (Papadimitriou et al., 2016). The same study also showed that ACTN3 genotype accounts for around 1% of sprint time variance.

Simultaneously, two copies of the sprint gene have been found in more than 97% of Olympic 100m sprinters .

Read more about genetic ability and sprinting

Sprint Gene in Denmark

AthGene has tested more than 500 people and found that just a little over 20% of them have two copies of the sprint gene which is associated with above average performance in power based sports, for example the 100m sprint. Adding the distribution of one and two copies of the sprint gene, we found that over 65% of the population the genes which have been found to be a prerequisite to do well in power based sports on a elite level.

Danish sprint gene


Do you need the ACTN3 gene to be a professional sprinter?

Essentially yes! At the highest level of performance – Olympic level – the ACTN3 genotype
appears to make a big difference, with around 97% of elite sprint athletes having at least one copy of
the sprint gene. However, just having one copy will not ensure you a place at the next Olympics.
Of course the vast majority of people with at least one copy don’t go on to become elite power athletes, and in
fact most studies suggest that ACTN3 explains just 3% or less of the variation in muscle function in the
general population.

However, even 2-3% can make a striking difference at the very elite level: of the 51 Olympic-level sprint/power athletes analysed in the original study and a follow-up analysis in Greek athletes not a single individual was having no copy of the sprint gene.

Finally we can conclude that there is a good proportion of Danes that have the genetic potential to compete at the highest - Olympic- level. 


Want to learn more about the sprint gene?

Download our Sprint Gene booklet.

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