So black runners are naturally faster? Wrong.

3 08 2007

Matthew Syed in The Times

The prototypical argument for black athletic superiority can be found in Taboo: Why Blacks Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk about it by Jon Entine. Entine’s central assertion is that it is not blacks as a whole that are good at sprinting but rather a subset who can trace their origins to western African coastal states. Indeed, he makes the point that “no white, Asian or East African runner has broken 10 seconds in the 100m” (my italics).

East Africans, it turns out, have a rather different skill set: distance running. As has been well documented, Kenyans from well-defined areas in the Rift Valley are strikingly successful at running 3,000m and above. Up until 1993 the Kalenjin tribe won 317 medals and the neighbouring Gussi people won 78. These figures amounted respectively to 63 per cent and 15 per cent of the 506 medals won by Kenyan athletes in major competitions.

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