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Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:24 AM

Why are Jamaicans so fast?


This article explains that, contrary to armchair anthropologists, the answer is a more interesting story....

https://www.google.com/amp/mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/opinion/sunday/the-secret-of-jamaicas-runners.amp.html

How do Jamaicans do it? It’s not because of genetics, as some claim. A vast majority of Jamaicans’ ancestors are from West Africa, which has relatively few outstanding sprinters. Nor can genetics explain why Jamaicans outperform other blacks in the Americas, especially in Brazil, which has 36 times as many of them.

Ask a Jamaican like me (I was born and raised there), and we’ll give you a very different answer: Champs. Officially called the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association Boys and Girls Athletics Championship, Champs is an annual competition attended by 30,000 wildly enthusiastic fans. Jamaica is perhaps the only country in the world where a track and field meet is the premier sporting event.

But it’s not just Champs. The competition is one part of a broader framework — track and field is huge at every educational level, with periodic regional meets drawing athletes of all ages from the most remote rural areas. So the real question is, why is Jamaica nuts for track?

...

The answer is complex and incomplete. But it might lie in a deeper truth about the island. Political and economic successes are often top-down, relying on leadership that adapts and manages appropriate institutions that also benefit the non-elite. But things like health reform and sports success — and the reggae industry, for that matter — are largely bottom-up. Jamaica is yet to acquire the leadership for national development it deserves. But it has no lack of talent, energy and self-reliance — qualities as evident in health statistics as they are on the track.

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Arrow 31 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why are Jamaicans so fast? (Original post)
jberryhill Aug 2016 OP
StrictlyRockers Aug 2016 #1
Ellen Forradalom Aug 2016 #2
jberryhill Aug 2016 #3
RandySF Aug 2016 #4
Liberal_in_LA Aug 2016 #5
jberryhill Aug 2016 #8
malaise Aug 2016 #18
DanTex Aug 2016 #15
jberryhill Aug 2016 #22
DanTex Aug 2016 #24
jberryhill Aug 2016 #25
DanTex Aug 2016 #27
jberryhill Aug 2016 #31
PSPS Aug 2016 #6
KMOD Aug 2016 #7
jberryhill Aug 2016 #9
SunSeeker Aug 2016 #10
StrictlyRockers Aug 2016 #19
SunSeeker Aug 2016 #29
JI7 Aug 2016 #11
malaise Aug 2016 #17
whistler162 Aug 2016 #12
B Calm Aug 2016 #13
Name removed Aug 2016 #14
malaise Aug 2016 #16
jberryhill Aug 2016 #23
malaise Aug 2016 #30
MiniMe Aug 2016 #20
Retrograde Aug 2016 #21
underpants Aug 2016 #28
TexasMommaWithAHat Aug 2016 #26

Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:30 AM

1. Irie vibes and ital food, mon.

 

Explains it all.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:32 AM

2. Enthusiastic mass participation in a sport

The sport's presence in everyday lives, and a good scouting and development system lead to discovering and mentoring greatness.

We see it time and again with soccer, basketball, running and even gymnastics in different countries of the world.

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Response to Ellen Forradalom (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:43 AM

3. It's like asking why Americans are good at baseball


In looking at answers to that question, what emerges is "they want to".

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:44 AM

4. Track is their NBA and Usan Bolt is their Jordan.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:47 AM

5. why racial/genetic/cultural examination needed for running and not swimming?

 

why are Phelps/Lotche so fast? why not "them" and "they" analysis for swimming?

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:58 AM

8. It's interesting for one country to dominate an event

Like when Eastern Europeans had a monopoly on women's gymnastics.

I did not know that Norman Manley did 110 yards in 10 seconds.

Forgive me for posting what I thought was an interesting article on Jamaican history.

I'm pretty familiar with US culture and history. I would imagine that the use of a third person plural pronoun indicates that the author is not Jamaican.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #8)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 08:56 AM

18. Orlando is Jamaican n/t

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #5)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 08:36 AM

15. I think it's a legitimate question for swimming also.

 

The thing is, Jamaica has less than 3 million people, so it's truly remarkable that they dominate sprinting events like they do. The US has a strong cultural tradition of swimming (and sports in general, other than soccer), but they also have 300 million people to pick from, so it's less noteworthy that they dominate in swimming, and in the total medal counts.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #15)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:43 PM

22. That's it...


I couldn't put my finger on it but, yes, it's the numbers in part.

Statistically, if you have a huge population, then you have a lot of people at the skinny end of any bell curve.

Conversely, India - a billion people waiting for cricket to be made an Olympic sport. I'm sure there are many great athletes in India, and there are also sports there, like Kabadi, that just aren't played widely elsewhere. But you'd think on numbers alone, that the "fastest Indian runners" would be pretty darn fast.

Come to think of it, has anyone normalized the national "medal count" to population? That would be an interesting chart.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #22)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:54 PM

24. I'd be interested in the normalized medal count, and I bet someone has done it.

 

If you count winter olympics also, then I think Norway comes out on top. They have 5 million people and dominate the cross-country skiing events.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #24)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:59 PM

25. ah, here it is for 2008 - Jamaica #1 by population


http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/medal-tally/rankings-population.htm

Confirming my suspicion on the gold medal/population ratio, and "why Jamaica?"

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #25)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:06 PM

27. Cool. In 2014, Norway won 11 winter golds, and with a population of 5.2 million,

 

that would put them about tied with Jamaica at 2.1 gold medals per million people.

For some mysterious reason, Jamaica doesn't do as well in winter, and Norway doesn't do as well in summer...

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Response to DanTex (Reply #27)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 05:17 PM

31. The winter games shouldn't be included in the overall


Every event in the winter games relies on frozen water, so there is an advantage to those places where it occurs naturally.

I don't understand why they don't offload some games like, say, basketball.

What makes indoor sports like basketball or, say, gymnastics a "summer" sport and not a winter one?

And, by the way, isn't it winter in Rio anyway?

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:50 AM

6. The OP title is just screaming for Emily Litella

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:56 AM

7. I'll go with the obvious.

 

The simply are in better shape.

They exercise more, they eat a better diet, and they breath cleaner air.

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Response to KMOD (Reply #7)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:59 AM

9. But that's no accident


It is a consequence of a focused public health effort.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:48 AM

10. Usain Bolt's dad said the secret of his speed is Jamaican yams.

http://hubpages.com/education/Usain-Bolt-the-Fastest-Human-Does-Yam-Contributes-to-His-Superb-Speed-Like-his-Father-Claimed

But it does seem that it is a much admired sport that any kid can play in that poor island country, since running requires no special or expensive equipment.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #10)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 12:41 PM

19. Seen?

 

Live up!

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Response to StrictlyRockers (Reply #19)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:56 PM

29. LOL

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:54 AM

11. so it's about allowing equal access to people at all levels of society

 

so more chance of getting those with talent.

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Response to JI7 (Reply #11)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 08:54 AM

17. Yep

That simple and loads of co-operation at all levels.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 06:47 AM

12. My guess parenting and a small(ish) island

They have to run to stay ahead of their mothers when they are in trouble or their mothers have chores for them. Since it is a island there are only so far you can run before hitting water. They tend to run a lot to stay out of her way.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 07:16 AM

13. Maybe it's the ganga mon.

 

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)


Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 08:53 AM

16. Read this yesterday

Orlando is spot on about bottom-up development in track. Basic schools (Pre Ks) have track meets

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Response to malaise (Reply #16)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:53 PM

23. We can hardly get ours to go outside, much less run


I read a companion piece about East Africans and their dominance in distance running, which I might post in a separate thread. I think the question strikes people as racist because they buy into "race" as an explanation, which is simply not the case. It is about wanting to do it, and the way it has woven itself into the society in general. Like football in Texas.

It's interesting that you mentioned netball - another sport which I had never heard of before spending time in the Caribbean. Beyond the sport itself, it strikes me that there is quite an intergenerational network of women netball players, which creates opportunities off the court.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #23)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 04:22 PM

30. Our premier school boys and girls championship is treated like the Superbowl except that

it takes place over four days.
Your point about networking is very important because Jamaicans who live all over the world come home to root for their former school. The strongest alumni are associated with the schools that have done well at Schools' Champs. They will provide the equipment, shoes, gearetc and ensure that the participants have a good diet.
This extends to other areas of these schools - computer labs, science labs, etc.
Then they all head to the Penn relays to see how well their teams do against yours.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:23 PM

20. Why was the Jamaican Bobsled team so successful?

Other than the track speed, it made no sense at all

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Response to MiniMe (Reply #20)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 02:31 PM

21. You need a team of good sprinters at the start

then when they all hop in gravity and inertia take over. The steerer does have to do something, but the initial speed comes from the push-off.

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Response to Retrograde (Reply #21)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:21 PM

28. Yes. Successful programs will use middle of the pack athletes in new sports

Jamaican bobsledding
Succesful diving programs use oversized or not top tier gymnasts. I know if a fairly accomplished high school gymnast who got a full ride at Stanford to be on their diving team.
Ex-gymnasts also make up trampoline and sync gymnastics teams.

The Kenyans and Ethiopians started using second tier marathoners for their 5 and 10K teams about 15 years ago and dominated.

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Response to jberryhill (Original post)

Mon Aug 15, 2016, 03:00 PM

26. Interesting! Thanks!

nt

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