Trønders have golden genes
Why is it that people from Trøndelag do so well in the Olympic Games? Genes may have the answer, says genetics researcher Atle Bones.
During this year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, seven of Norway’s nine gold medals were won by Trønders, which is more than all of Sweden’s medal count. Historically, 35 of Norway’s 68 medals from the Winter Paralympics have been won by Trønders since 1948, representing a quarter of all gold medals.
“It’s impressive that people from Trøndelag have such success in winning medals in one Olympics. It breaks the all the statistics that such a small area should be able to assert itself as such. We can say that the genetics need to be in order, and those from Trondheim have a genetic pool that is very suitable for sports,” says Atle Bones, professor of cell biology and genetics at NTNU in Trondheim.
These days, there is a large debate about nature versus nuture. Some would argue the genes have the answer, with the example of the strong Trøndelag Olympic achievements.
“It could be that the Trøndelag temperament can explain this. For example, the concentration of Petter Northug and his training. The ability to overcome fatigue, and the motivation to provide that little extra is that not everyone has. From Trondheim’s known for being tough and have survival qualities. This can be explained genetically, ” said Bones.
Bones speculates on the Olympic success of Trønders correlates to the strong sports environment of Trøndelag.
“We must remember that even though there is great social pressure to participates in sports in Trøndelag, it can also be explained by genetics. Athletes have a tendency to meet their partners on the sports circuit. Out of this there must be offspring with the same athletic mentality, not to mention physics. I know several who have been strong Trøndelag athletes, and who have children and grandchildren who also have success in the sport. I can imagine that generations follow generations time here. It’s possible that the Trøndelag Gene Bank is suitable for sports,” said Bones.
Bones boasts the Trøndelag has a strong sense of community surrounding sports, but on the other hand, it is hard to argue that Trøndelag genes alone provided all the medals.
“Basically it is the reason that many places in North-Trøndelag, such as Steinkjer, Mosvik, Namdalseid or Namsos, have sports at very high levels, and I think many are not aware of the high level of achievement. The genetics among those from Trøndelag are obviously good, but we need to consider the great importance of social and cultural factors. However, the great Olympic performances of those from Trondheim could possibly be explained by the good genes,” laughs Bones.
“I’ll be sure to get a lot of flack from Bergen after this,” he adds.