If there is a level playing field in athletics, it is the earth—literally. Running is the most democratic of sports. Technique and strategy are arguably less important than innate qualities of quickness, speed, leaping ability, endurance and power. Yet, even as the Olympics and World Championships have become more diverse, with participants from every corner of the globe, the color of the winners has become increasingly monochromatic. In the world of sports, where black athletic superiority is axiomatic, the monopoly by athletes of African descent is astonishing. Whites and Asians are in danger of becoming mere asterisks when compared to darker-skinned competitors. Road running and jumping events are especially revealing.
Consider the startling success of Kenya. No country has so dominated one sport as Kenya has endurance running. Since winning its first medal at the 1964 Olympics, Kenya has collected 40 Olympic medals including 13 gold in men's races—a haul in the running events exceeded by only one country—the sprint-rich U.S., with a population ten times larger than Kenya. In the past three Olympics, Kenyans have swept 22 medals, all at distances 800-meters and longer. But 1988 was especially remarkable. At Seoul, Kenyan men won the 800-meters, the 1500-meters, the 3000-meter steeplechase, and the 5000-meters, along with numerous silver and bronze medals. Based on population percentages alone, the likelihood that this Texas-sized country could turn in such a remarkable medal performance is one in 1,600,000,000—that's one in 1.6 billion.
The only sports achievement of comparable magnitude is the monopoly of the sprints by athletes who trace their ancestry to Central West Africa.
Remember the last time anyone other than an athlete of primarily West African ancestry set the men's world record in the 100-meter sprint? One has to go back to 1960, when German Armin Hary won the Olympic gold medal in 10.2 seconds. Review the all-time top 100-meter finishes. Every one of the top 150 on the all-time list are held by Blacks with roots in Central West Africa. The likelihood of that happening based on population numbers alone—Blacks from this region in Africa represent approximately 8 percent of the world's population—is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 percent.
"If you can believe that individuals of recent African ancestry are not genetically advantaged over those of European and Asian ancestry in certain athletic endeavors," avers University of California professor Vincent Sarich in his introductory course in anthropology for undergraduates, "then you probably could be led to believe just about anything."
"Blacks, physically in many cases, are made better," agrees Carl Lewis, one of the best sprinters of all-time. He shrugs, as if to say, "does anyone really question that?" This is the same Carl Lewis who, by his own estimation, worked out eight hours—per week not per day—in the run up to winning four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. But are his remarks the product of Black pride or is he a victim of a stereotype so powerful that even successful blacks have come to mimic a racist party line?
Pub date: 12/20/00
Price: $17.50/20.50 Canada
Selling Territory: WORLD
Pub history: PublicAffairs hc