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The marvels of elite sports: how to get there?
  1. Marije T Elferink-Gemser1,2,
  2. Geir Jordet3,
  3. Manuel J Coelho-E-Silva4,
  4. Chris Visscher1
  1. 1Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  2. 2Institute for Studies in Sports and Exercise, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Coaching and Psychology, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4Department of Sport Science and Physical Education, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Marije T Elferink-Gemser, Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands; m.t.elferink-gemser{at}

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Elite athletes' performances are astonishing, leaving millions of people wondering how it is possible that they do what they do. With apparent ease, grace and fluidity, elite athletes carry out seemingly impossible manoeuvres. They constantly push the boundaries of human performance and we, the ones standing on the sideline, are fascinated by it. In contemporary Western society, sport is part of our everyday lives with elite sport having become a multi-million euro business. While sport is probably the major opportunity of physical activity for all children and adolescents, elite athletes are considered role models for many of them.

If we look under the surface of elite sport, we know that every elite athlete was once a child and has gone a long way before reaching the top. What characterised their successful development towards expertise? One way to gain insight into this intriguing question is to simply ask current elite athletes to retrospectively report what they have done. They would probably tell you that they have dedicated most of their time, energy, resources and effort, with the goal of becoming the best that they can be.1 Still, this leaves us with the question of how to identify and develop those youth athletes who have the potential to become outstanding when …

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