It is now over 40 years since Australia won its last medal in an Olympic Games (OG) mens running event; that being Rick Mitchell who won a silver medal in the 400m at Moscow in 1980.
Tucked away in the middle of the Caribbean Sea is an island by the name of Jamaica. Despite it’s relatively small population and area, Jamaica is an athletic powerhouse, dominating sprint events at international meets.
With a reputation as a laid-back, reggae-loving, rasta-hat wearing nation, it has long been a mystery as to how Jamaicans are so fast. The truth can be explained with three “Ds”:
Professor Errol Morrison of the University of Technology, Jamaica, has developed an hypothesis that states a Jamaican’s diet plays a role producing extraordinary sprinters.
Professor Morrison, who has done more research on the topic than almost anyone else, says the humble green banana and yam can play a part in improving muscle performance. These foods work together to stimulate and replenish the muscle’s energy supply.
The yam is not a miracle vegetable that can simply be eaten to shave seconds from your 100m time, but as part of a steady diet from a young age, it can have its benefits. Yams work as a steroid, and if eaten consistently from a young age, can help to develop muscle mass as a person goes through their teenage years.
Bananas contain phytates, which help the ATP PC energy system operate faster, an asset which is vital over 100m. Many Jamaicans grow up on a healthy diet which includes a dosage of yam and green banana high enough to make an impact on performance.
Before sufficient research had been done, many people accredited the Jamaican’s success to a mysterious miracle gene. Such ideas have remained unproven and deemed impossible.
But the physical build of people of West African descent, such as people from Jamaica, is undeniably different than that of others. Our good friend Professor Morrison denies the presence of a “speed gene”, but accepted the anatomy of black and white people is different.
Generally, black people possess greater muscle mass and have a different backbone/hip/pelvis/thigh relationship, that allows them to raise their knee to a greater height, more easily. This results in more power.
Black athletes also breath faster, which is a benefit in sprint events. Furthermore, many Jamaican athletes are born with more white, or fast twitch, muscle fibres, which make them more suited to short, fast activities.
Ultimately, this is the factor that differentiates Jamaican athletes from the rest of the world. As a collective group, they have a hunger and a desire to be the best sprinters in the world, and this thirst is unmatched by any other group of people.
Poverty and unemployment is high, and sprinting allows Jamaicans to literally run clear of their problems. Running unites the country and athletics is the second highest participation sport on the island.
Jamaica has the third highest number of homicides, averaging three per day. On the day when Usain Bolt took gold in the 100m at Beijing, no one was murdered. Jamaicans simply loving sprinting and with that love comes a desire to succeed. The popularity of athletics has many benefits.
This love of running helps to set-up success for the future. The Jamaicans develop their youth better than anyone else, with programs such as the Champs offering up-and-comers the chance to train and compete to improve.
The competitive of these meets is second to none. Whilst young athletes are not making the podium in Jamaica, they would be national champions in America. This strength of competition makes each young athlete train harder and improve more, creating an unmatchable depth of talent.
When a young Jamaican sees his or her idols competing on the international stage, it inspires them to greatness. Jamaica has simply developed a culture that will ensure they are a sprinting powerhouse for many years to come.
Desire is the ultimate reason why Jamaicans are unbeatable over 100m. Diet and DNA might aid Jamaicans in their quest for sprinting glory, but are useless without dedication and hard work. Those who train the hardest and who truly want it the most will nearly always come out victorious, and the Jamaicans have demonstrated that year after year.
Jamaica has out sprinted the world for the past decade, and will continue to do so.
Whilst their physical makeup and diet offer some benefit to their performance, it is ultimately a thirst for success and desire to be the best that puts Jamaican athletes consistently at the top of the podium.