What role does genetics play in sporting success?

What role does genetics play in sporting success? In the first in a new series interviewing high-achieving cycling families, Chris Marshall-Bell ponders nature versus nurture with the Walkers

(Andy Jones)

How important a role does genetics play in cycling? Success at professional level certainly seems to run in families, so evidently some talent is inherited. But how much? Does having a cyclist mum or dad make you more likely to excel because of the example they set, or because of the physical attributes they’ve passed on?

In the first of our new ‘In the genes?’ series aiming to investigate the importance of genetic inheritance in cycling, we speak with the Walkers – a family synonymous with British cycling glory. They’re a three-generation lineage of successful cyclists: in the Nineties, Chris was often cited as the most prolific winner on the domestic scene. Fast-forward to 2020, and the 55-year-old’s offspring Jessie and Joey have enjoyed success domestically and internationally, too.

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Chris Marshall-Bell

A freelance sports journalist and podcaster, you'll mostly find Chris's byline attached to news scoops, profile interviews and feature writing across a variety of different publications. He has been writing regularly for Cycling Weekly since 2013.

Previously a ski, hiking and cycling guide in a number of places, but mostly in the Canadian Rockies and Spanish Pyrenees, he almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.

He lives in Valencia, Spain.