Ed Smith in More Intelligent Life:

Sport_0Thirty-five years ago, a hundred tennis-playing children were tested for general athleticism. One girl (pictured) was rated by the psychologist leading the analysis as “the perfect tennis talent”. She outperformed her contemporaries at every tennis drill, as well as general motor skills. Her lung capacity suggested that she could have become a European champion at 1,500 metres. The girl’s name? Steffi Graf, who went on to win 22 grand slams. I was reminded of Graf’s innate sporting talent during a recent conversation with the geneticist and former Economist journalist Matt Ridley. We were discussing the common argument that greatness, even genius, is the result of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. This has been the sales pitch of several widely read books, the subtitles of which include “The genius in all of us” and “Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown”. If nurture is so dominant and nature such an irrelevance, then an unavoidable question follows: how many people, of all those born in 1756, had the potential, if they were given the right opportunities, to be as good as Mozart? Or in this case, how many women, of all those born in 1969, had the potential to become as good at tennis as Graf? According to the logic that a genius lurks in all of us, the answer must lie somewhere between “most” and “many”.

Ridley’s answers were a bit different: four Mozarts and about 30 Grafs. There was mischief, of course, in attaching numbers to such hypothetical questions. But his answer rang true.

More here.