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November 15th, 2015, 07:11 AM   #1
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Autism in sports

Somebody mention jokingly that MM was potentially autistic, but I'd always thought the kid was really odd and wondering if he was some kind of high functioning "Idiot Savant" tho I believe that term has fallen out of fashion. I have a nephew who was diagnosed at a very young age and I remember going to family get-togethers when he was very young and I found the kid to be very disturbing to be around because of how difficult it was to communicate anything with him. In my ignorance - I thought him a "lost soul". But over the last 14 years his parents gave him a lot of love and the right kind of attention; no drugs. Last summer he ended up working as an intern at the White House and now at the age of 18 he has a better grasp of politics and the stock market than most adults I know.

So I got to thinking about what accomplished athletes are out there that have also overcome this condition. It's hard to find a lot of info as the syndrome still has a great deal of stigma attached to it. A few I found were

Michael Brannigan - Runner

Jason McElwain Basketball Player

Clay Marzo American professional surfer

Those are just from a quick search.

I reckon there are many more athletes who fall into the autism spectrum that are never diagnosed, and ones who get it late in life - who don't talk about it for fear of being treated as different, or having it affect their chances of moving up in the world of pro sports. There are tons of highly people in the creative arts who are very much open about it - but I reckon in the world of sports - people are less open-minded about the subject.
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November 15th, 2015, 02:04 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Keshav View Post
Somebody mention jokingly that MM was potentially autistic, but I'd always thought the kid was really odd and wondering if he was some kind of high functioning "Idiot Savant" tho I believe that term has fallen out of fashion. I have a nephew who was diagnosed at a very young age and I remember going to family get-togethers when he was very young and I found the kid to be very disturbing to be around because of how difficult it was to communicate anything with him. In my ignorance - I thought him a "lost soul". But over the last 14 years his parents gave him a lot of love and the right kind of attention; no drugs. Last summer he ended up working as an intern at the White House and now at the age of 18 he has a better grasp of politics and the stock market than most adults I know.

So I got to thinking about what accomplished athletes are out there that have also overcome this condition. It's hard to find a lot of info as the syndrome still has a great deal of stigma attached to it. A few I found were

Michael Brannigan - Runner

Jason McElwain Basketball Player

Clay Marzo American professional surfer

Those are just from a quick search.

I reckon there are many more athletes who fall into the autism spectrum that are never diagnosed, and ones who get it late in life - who don't talk about it for fear of being treated as different, or having it affect their chances of moving up in the world of pro sports. There are tons of highly people in the creative arts who are very much open about it - but I reckon in the world of sports - people are less open-minded about the subject.
As always, I think making such medical diagnoses via the Internet is perilous.

However MM certainly seems to be wired differently to the common man in terms of fear/apprehension of consequences. I don't think the last 3 races provide much evidence towards anything though, since he is accused of not riding aggressively enough in 2 of them, and in the other Valentino Rossi who would seem unlikely to be autistic rode equally aggressively and was the one who eventually rode illegally to knock MM off his bike, and has been acclaimed, probably mostly justly, for riding in a similar fashion for many more laps at LS 2008.

The main danger I perceive for MM in all this, which was I guess foreseeable, is incurring Rossi's enmity and the consequent undying hatred of crazy fans, which might have real effects on his career. I am unsure whether he is simply the first rider to have the balls/testicular fortitude to stand up to Rossi as Povol has posited, or whether he just doesn't care anyway.

All of these guys, particularly the top guys, have to be abnormally wired in terms of exceptional physiology etc in the first place though, I guess. Valentino famously doesn't get his heart rate above 100 riding a GP bike race.

Last edited by michaelm; November 15th, 2015 at 03:11 PM.
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November 15th, 2015, 05:31 PM   #3
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I certainly didn't meant to imply a diagnosis of Marquez as being autistic. Someone else had said so in jest. But I can say from my limited time as a club racer, having regularly spent time with many top riders in the AMA (many who were kind enough to provide a couch for me to sleep on when on the road) that the ones I remember who were really at the top of the game, were almost all very narrowly focused and self-absorbed and had very limited social lives and little patience for anyone or anything that didn't directly connect to racing. Many were lifetime loner/batchelors. Few were good listeners but loved to talk at you rather than with you. Lots of mid-pack riders were great all 'round guys but the top riders, not so much. There's that tendency towards being very socially withdrawn and the tunnel-vision approach to sport that seems to point to parallels. Anyhow... it was an intriguing thought.
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November 15th, 2015, 06:00 PM   #4
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I certainly didn't meant to imply a diagnosis of Marquez as being autistic. Someone else had said so in jest. But I can say from my limited time as a club racer, having regularly spent time with many top riders in the AMA (many who were kind enough to provide a couch for me to sleep on when on the road) that the ones I remember who were really at the top of the game, were almost all very narrowly focused and self-absorbed and had very limited social lives and little patience for anyone or anything that didn't directly connect to racing. Many were lifetime loner/batchelors. Few were good listeners but loved to talk at you rather than with you. Lots of mid-pack riders were great all 'round guys but the top riders, not so much. There's that tendency towards being very socially withdrawn and the tunnel-vision approach to sport that seems to point to parallels. Anyhow... it was an intriguing thought.
Sure. MM would seem to fit the profile you encountered, and I don't know about Jorge, because you don't hear much about his social life in the english language media. Rossi on the other hand is reputedly very gregarious off track, but his on track persona is also highly focused and some would say ruthless, as was Mick Doohan on track.
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March 15th, 2016, 03:23 PM   #5
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Marquez strikes me as a happy kid, doing the best job in the world (for him).

I'm unwilling to ascribe any armchair mental diagnosis. I suspect if he was a bit funny in the head, he wouldn't have gotten to where he is now.
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March 15th, 2016, 03:49 PM   #6
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Guy Martin was diagnosed with Aspergers.
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