Best/worst Olympic Sport for a raw athletic talent?

Just about a year ago, I was travelling in the unexplored forests of a region of a globe I won’t specify, and came upon a hidden valley in which there was a civilization that had never contacted the outside world. It was rich and prosperous, and absolutely mad for sports, but all sports entirely unique to that region. And it turned out that the current reigning champion in the sport of (untranslatable) was a stunningly gifted natural athlete… a 25-year-old man who was just utterly off the charts in terms of strength, speed, reflexes, agility, coordination and balance. (Note that this valley civilization does not have horses, bodies of water large enough to swim in, bows, guns, bicycles, swordfighting, or anything else comparable to the apparatus of any existing Olympic sport…)

So I toyed with the idea of telling him about the Olympics, then (if he was interested) bringing him back to the outside world, and devoting my limitless personal fortune to purchasing all the necessary equipment and hiring all the necessary coaches to give him an intensive 1-year crash course in one Olympic sport or event. Then I would bribe the crap out of a bunch of IOC officials and get him entered in the London games, so that he would get to compete in that event (even if it is one that usually has a rigorous qualification program, etc).

What event would he be most likely to be able to win a medal in? Least likely?
Off the top of my head, I would guess that the most likely event would be some middle-distance running… maybe 800 meters? There is (as I understand it) so much specialized training and so forth for the sprints, and the really long distance runs require such a specific body type that it might be undoable, but just flat out ridiculous athletic talent might be able to make up for lack of years of training on a race in the middle.

As for hardest, maybe Gymnastics? Equestrian Eventing?

(And feel free to extend the hypothetical in some clever fashion so that it covers team sports, if you wish, although I’m guessing they’d all be over on the hard end of the scale, because they’d require learning both the skills (dribbling, shooting) and the strategy and teamwork aspects.)

The 800 is closer to distance running than the sprints. 100m would work. The only technique is starting/transitioning to upright. You can’t teach raw speed just build strength to use it.
Jeff Demps’ high school national record would have easily qualified him through the first round.

Judo/wrestling might be pretty bad with all the little rules. Possibly fencing as well.

Weightlifting might be a good one, other than that track events might indeed be the best bet. Steeplechase, perhaps?

Yes, the 800. Possibly even a marathon, assuming distance running is part of the culture.

Sports with a lot of rules will be tough, better to go with something that needs the most of raw strength, speed, etc. Track and Field has a lot of running, jumping type, throwing events, those would be great. Basketball, not so much. I’ve been watching the game for almost 2 decades and still can’t figure out illegal defense calls

Olympic weightlifting is as much about technique as raw strength, to the point where it’s difficult to learn the lifts if you’re strong enough to do them incorrectly. If there were olympic powerlifting, it’d be a different story, but that’s probably not happening any time soon.

Disagree. Though almost anyone can run 800 meters, raw talent won’t get you even near the world’s best. Science, nowadays, has nearly as much to do with talent to perform at world-class levels and that means there’s tons of money involved – whether the training center is locally centered or if the athletes are “exported” to countries with the best facilities, it’s still a very expensive & unlikely proposition for medals.

Perhaps disciplines such as shooting & archery are the best bets, in so far as raw talent could take you the whole way.

That said, Olympics medals are hardly a fluke but rather years and years of devotion and expenditure by both athletes and nations.


Curious, what country will they represent?

I’m having a hard time picturing how raw talent could take a person the whole way with regards to Olympic archery. There’s an absurd amount of finesse involved in getting arrows consistently into a dinner plate-sized spot at 70 meters. A millimeter off with the anchor point, the draw a fraction of an inch short, the slightest fatigue in dozens of little-used small muscles keeping things steady, results in failure. Just building a good technical foundation to have any chance of keeping the arrows on the target face takes dozens of hours of mostly counter-intuitive drilling of precise stance, draw, aim, loose, follow-through etc., quite the opposite of a feat doable by innate physical talent.

Yeah, but that’s certainly true of any sport these days. The question is whether raw talent plus a year of super-intensive top-level training can get you close, or at least closer than it can in any other sport.

Any sport has an enormous amount of technique and strategy to learn, but running is something where at least the fundamental skill being measured is one that everyone presumably has (I was unable to construct a hypothetical in which a natural athletic prodigy had never attempted to run fast…)


How tall are they? Are team sports allowed?

I figure if you’ve got a year to train them, having to teach all the precise details of each of pole vault, high jump, long jump, javelin, discuss and shot put, plus 3 footraces and hurdles, has to be harder than just one of those ten… with a medium length footrace seeming easiest to me

6 foot even

Sure, although he has to actually play… you can’t have him be the 24th man on the roster of a Soccer team, but if you want to train him to be a great volleyball player, then assume that we can also issue sufficient bribes to get him onto a gold-medal-contending volleyball team.