Skip to content

Why Jamaicans Run So Fast

Jamaica Punches Way Above its Weight in Sports

Jamaica punches way above its weight in Sports, especially in Track & Field. In the latest (2020) Olympics Jamaica ended 3rd in the Track & Field medal table, trumping scores of countries many times its size and in financial and other resources.

Position

Country

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

1

United States

7

12

7

26

2

Poland

4

2

3

9

3

Jamaica

4

1

4

9

4

Kenya

3

4

2

9

5

Netherlands

2

2

3

7

6

Canada

2

1

3

6

7

Great Britain

0

3

3

6

8

Italy

5

0

0

5

9

China

2

2

1

5

10

Uganda

2

1

1

4

In the recent (2022) Under 20 World Athletic Championship Jamaica moved up to #2 after a Nigerian Athlete tested positive for drugs! Jamaica even landed more medals than the USA but they got one more gold medal than Jamaica.

UNDER 20 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2022

   

RANK

COUNTRY

GOLD

SILVER

BRONZ

TOTAL

1

USA

7

4

4

15

2

JAMAICA

6

7

3

16

3

ETHOPIA

6

5

1

12

4

KENYA

3

3

4

10

5

SOUTH AFRICA

2

1

2

5

6

TURKEY

2

1

1

4

7

FRANCE

2

1

0

3

8

GERMANY

1

4

3

8

9

SWEDEN

1

2

1

4

10

FINLAND

1

2

0

3

Whereas the Africans (Nigeria and Ethiopia) literally own the long races, Jamaica’s only real rival in the sprints is the USA. Currently, three of the top 5 fastest women are Jamaican and it can be safely predicted that Jamaican women will dominate the 100m and 200m races for the next 20 years as there is a fairly large crop of Juniors who are running spectacular times. Jamaica broke the 4 x 100m relay World Record in the recently concluded Under 20 World Athletic Championship which featured the twin turbos – Tia and Tina Clayton.

Jamaica’s dominance in the men’s equivalent has been halted with the retirement of Usain Bolt the greatest ever sprinter. However, all eyes are on the under 20 youth Oblique Seville who is the 2nd fastest person period in the 100m currently and improving all the time. Jamaica also has a formidable crop of fast male hurdlers. Five of the top 10 fastest 110m hurdlers are Jamaica including 2nd and 3rd spots.

In 2012 at the peak of Bolts career, I wrote a light-hearted book title “WHY JAMAICANS RUN SO FAST – Facts, Fiction and Fairytale.”

The fairytale part had to be about the one and only Usain Bolt who simply owned the 100m and 200m for years and who records of 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds in the 100m and 200m respectively will be hard to ever beat! Importantly, Usain Bolt single-handedly lifted the profile of Track & Field which had been rocked by a series of doping scandals headed by Russian athletes along with some Nigerians.

The fiction is about the yam. Yes, Usain is from the region of Jamaica (upper Trelawny) which produces 70% of the yams in Jamaica. But Usain eats far more KFC fries than Yams. Plus, most yam lovers like myself would be like donkeys in a thoroughbred horse race. This myth has helped to improve Jamaica’s Yam Export though, so let’s not knock it!

Here are the best reasons for the speed of so many Jamaican athletes, not necessarily in order of importance:

1. CHAMPS Jamaica Track and Field Championships – More Than One Hundred Years of Tradition

The Jamaica ISSA Boys & Girls Championships, popularly known as Champs, is an annual Jamaican high school track and field meet on the island, which has been ongoing for OVER 100 YEARS! It is the largest in-country high school track and field event anywhere on the planet, always attracting international media, overseas college coaches and sponsors like Nike, Puma and Adidas, looking for the next Donald Quarrie, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Elain Thompson Hero, Usain Bolt etc.

The only way to really understand the power and magic of this Boys and Girls Championships is to actually go to Kingston, Jamaica, at the end of March and witness the event first-hand.

During the year leading up to CHAMPS there are many national Development Meets and regional competitions, culminating in the biggest and the most popular athletics competition in Jamaica. It is a nationwide team competition among high school teams, consisting of athletes aged 10 to 19. But it’s more than that. Most importantly, it’s five days of anticipation, great expectation, and general excitement.

 

Front pages of the biggest newspapers, five days of live broadcast on national TV, and full stands of the 35,000-seat National Stadium in Kingston attest to the importance of this event to Jamaicans! Alumni from all over the diaspora converge on Kingston to support their former schools and to cheer on their athletes to try to secure bragging rights at the end of the competition. Everybody in Jamaica has a favourite team to support with passion. On occasion there is a stand-out athlete like a Usain Bolt that everyone is hoping will produce something special.  CHAMPS is a crucible of fire, stress and pressure that more than prepares our athletes for the big international events. That’s why Jamaicans are not fazed by the bright lights of the World Games or the Olympics – CHAMPS is HELL on earth!

It is no surprise to see current top-class athletes like the world and Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce dressed in her high school colours, maroon and gold, standing on the chair and loudly cheering for young athletes. When asked why she is so passionate about CHAMPS Shelly says, “A lot of people will say, ‘What is this grown-up woman doing there screaming and making noise?’ But when I go to Champs, I’m not going to just sit in the seat. When I leave the stadium at night, I can hardly hear myself, because I’ve been screaming. And I’m one of those people who gets their nails done in my school’s colours. It’s all about Wolmer’s boys and girls this week,” says the ‘Pocket Rocket’.

Jamaica has Excellent Coaches

Jamaica is the only country in the Caribbean (except Cuba) with a collage dedicated to training Coaches. Donated by Fidel Castro during the Michael Manley era, G C Foster Collage continues to produce some of the top athletic coaches in the world. There is no question that Coach Glen Mills, for example, was substantially responsible for Usain Bolts icon success.

Jamaicans are Built to Run

Scientists tell us that Fast-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for generating explosive speed and power, which is what is needed with sprinting, rather than jogging. Many black Jamaicans seem to have been blessed with a dominant percentage of these muscle, which is supposedly why we don’t do well at marathons and long races for which slow-twitch muscles are required for endurance rather than speed.

A Sense of Confidence

We have a sense of humor that can find the silver lining in virtually any situation and we’re not afraid to laugh at ourselves. It gives us a sense of confidence that’s missing in those who take themselves too seriously.

We Learn from Young

Sports play an important role in our schools and we encourage youngsters in their endeavors. The prestigious athletic program promotes the talents of our youth and fosters an environment where those with extraordinary promise can follow their athletic goals wherever it takes them.

Jamaica is the Perfect Training Ground

We run for fun and to get where we need to go. Jamaicans never pass up an opportunity to pit our talents and skills against our peers in friendly competition. We’ve been blessed with an environment that fosters outdoor pursuits and we don’t waste what we’ve been given. A variety of different terrains – from high mountains to plains- provides us with multiple ways to build speed, strength, endurance and agility, without the need for machines and artificial methods.

Every Jamaican Wants to be a Star

Every Jamaican wants to be a star and, in athletics, the real stars are the stars are the sprinters. Sprinters are the ones who steal the headlines, who the fans worship and adore and who the sponsors like PUMA pay big bucks for endorsements. That’s why Usain Bolt is one of the richest track athletes ever!

Jamaica has a Never-Say-Die Attitude

In summary, there are many contributing reasons why Jamaicans run fast, but it can all be summed up in a few words – culture and tradition; physiology; a beautiful and breath-taking climate; confidence; and the “never say die” attitude of the Jamaicans and their indomitable spirit! 

Author:

Horace Peterkin

A singer, actor, entertainer, tour guide, cook, community-builder and award-winning hotel manager, Horace Peterkin is Jamaican to the bone.  He is an is amazingly talented.  A graduate of University of the West Indies and Cornell University , USA, Peterkin is recognized by UNESCO for developing the 1st HIV/AIDS Training Programme in the Tourism industry in the world and Created TEAM JAMAICA, a National Programme that all tourism workers must be certified in to work in the industry.  He was a multi ‘Hotellier of the Year’ winner and served as President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA). 
Peterkin is ultra-creative. His Peterkin Hospitality Services operates in many tourism-related sectors, including his Pussycat Jungle Experience.  He has big plans for a Pirates of the Caribbean Theater.  You will not want to visit Jamaica without connecting with Horace Peterkin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

 131 total views,  8 views today