Jamaican Athletes: The Secrets Behind Their Success

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There’s no end to the number of Jamaican athletes who step onto the world stage and produce lightning-fast speeds. Usain Bolt’s 2009 record of 9:58 seconds stands to this day and we don’t know how long it’ll continue to stand. Some are even questioning where it’ll ever be broken. On the women’s side, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce has been dominant, underscoring Jamaicans’ prowess in the sprints. But what makes them so good? 

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Why Are Jamaican Athletes So Fast?

We’ll examine this on five levels. 

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Running culture in Jamaica
  • Individual motivation 
  • Coaching

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Genetics

Jamaican athletes are believed to have a genetic advantage over other populations due to the presence of a variant called D allele in the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). This gene makes them have a bigger heart capacity and hence pump blood faster than others. 

The 577RR variant of the ACTN3 gene is also highly linked with Jamaican athletes. It allows for fast-twitching which makes their muscles contract faster. The effect is the production of energy which works well for brief and intense activities like sprinting. 

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Environment

Research from the University of West Indies shows that most Jamaican athletes come from areas with soil that is high in aluminium. Farming happens to take place in these areas which means that the foods they eat are rich in deposits of aluminium. It’s suspected that these trigger the genes in Jamaican athletes even before they are born.

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Running Culture in Jamaica

Running is a national treasure in Jamaica. A lot of young people join the sport when they are young. They rise through the ranks from the junior to the senior competitions. The education systems support athletics. 

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They have a robust structure that exposes them to high-level training. This means that they also spend countless hours training to perfect their skills such that by the time they get to the senior level, they are fit to take on the world.

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Individual Ambition

Jamaican Athletes: The Secrets Behind Their Success
Athletics runner. Image Source: Unsplash licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

A lot of the Jamaican athletes come from impoverished backgrounds. Athletics provides an opportunity for them to improve their lives. Usain Bolt came from a rural place in Jamaica. From an early age, he was obsessed with sports. 

The sprint king played cricket and football but was encouraged to try athletics. Today, he’s one of the most successful Jamaican athletes. He’s not the only one to have used sport to change his life.

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Coaching

It takes a good eye to spot talent and skill to nurture it to produce a world champion. Some of the best Jamaican coaches to have done this are Glen Mills and Victor ‘Poppy’ ThomasGlen Mills coached Usain Bolt and has nurtured other Jamaican greats. His trainees have won 33 Olympic Medals and 71 World Championship medals.

Now you know why Jamaican athletes are exceptionally good in sprints. You can read more about the science behind this by getting some books on Amazon.   

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