Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Is there a link between slavery and the worlds top sprinters?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Is there a link between slavery and the worlds top sprinters?

Just as most of the world's top distance runners seem to come from Kenya and Ethiopia in East Africa, most of the elites in sprinting seem to have a link back to West Africa. In a television programme called 'Survival of the Fastest' on Channel 4 this evening, they will examine the way slavery had an impact on the West Afican slaves that were taken to the United States and the Caribbean.

Olympic Gold medalist Michael Johnson who is presenting the programme said that there may be a ‘superior athletic gene’ in the descendants of West African slaves which means black American and Caribbean sprinters have an advantage. Commenting on it, Johnson said....."Over the last few years, athletes of Afro- Caribbean and Afro-American descent have dominated athletics finals. It’s a fact that hasn’t been discussed openly before. It’s a taboo subject in the States but it is what it is. Why shouldn’t we discuss it? It is currently being researched to see how much of a factor being descended from slaves contributes to athletic ability. All my life  I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations.  Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior  athletic gene in us.’"

Of the eight 100m finalists four years ago, three were Jamaicans, two came from Trinidad and Tobago, two were Afro-American and one, representing the Netherlands, was born on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. All eight are believed to be descended from slaves. The theory is that a combination of selective breeding by slave owners and appalling conditions meant that only the strongest slaves endured, creating a group predisposed to record-breaking athletic performance.

The Channel 4 documentary 'Survival Of The Fastest' will be screened on Thursday night (5th July) at 9pm.

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