Black athletes matter

To anyone with eyes that can see there is always one astonishing fact about the Olympics, that Black men are the fastest runners in the world.  All ten of the fastest men in the 100 m sprint in Rio were Black and so were most of the runners who won the other races (200 m, 400 m) etc.  Only the Japanese came second in the 4 x 100 relay, so it is not an exclusive club. Also the winning US women’s sprinters team are all Black and the US basketball team are all Black.

Now is this statement racist?  Of course not, it is stating a fact.  And it is certainly not negative about Black men, on the contrary, Usain Bolt of Jamaica is an incredible runner, having won three gold medals at three consecutive Olympics.  What an athlete!   As a scientist I must believe that there is a rational reason for this striking fact. All the fastest men in the world, from Jamaica, the USA and elsewhere originate in West Africa. Also, there have been a string of such Black atheletes from Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games, thru Carl Lewis and Tyson Gay.

Some years ago I came across a book entitled “Taboo: why Black athletes dominate sports and why we are afraid to talk about it” by Jon Entine.  This author did some research into the subject and found that Blacks who originate in West Africa not only have more developed leg muscles in general than European whites, they also have more mitochondia in their muscle cells than whites, making their cellular respiration more efficient and hence they are able to run faster. This is a rational explanation that satisfies me.

But, what about the fact that the dominant  long-distance runners, although almost all Black, do not come from the same countries as the Black sprinters, they come from East and North Africa.  Mostly Ethiopia and Kenya and some from Morocco and Somalia. An explanation for this dominance is possibly that they come from areas with few roads and schools and they literally have to run miles to school and back every day.  This builds up incredible stamina. This explanation for the long distance runners was used to explain the endurance of Jim Thorpe, a native American runner who won the decathlon at the 1912 Olympics.

Also, most of these athletes live in high altitudes with less oxygen and so at lower elevations their muscles work more efficiently.  So for example most of the long distance races at the Olympics were won by athletes from Ethiopia and Kenya.  For example, the British long-distance runner who won the 5,000 and 10,000 m races at the Olympics, Mo Farrah, originates from Somalia. But, it may not be a sufficiently good explanation since the native peoples who live in the heights of the Andes mountains in S. America are not known for their running ability.

The concomitant of this Black dominance of running is the White dominance in swimming.  Among the top 10 fastest swimmers at the Olympics in Rio there was not a single Black person. I remember that an American Football coach was fired once for making what was deemed a racist comment, that Blacks are not good swimmers because of some genertic factor.  I don’t know that that is, but it would seem that upper body musculature is what is need in swimming while lower body musculature is what is needed in running and maybe the races differ sufficiently in these areas to result in differential specialization.  At least the results seem to indicate this.



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