T Nation

Channelling in Sport


I just read a really interesting article in the T Nation archives which asked the question why have black men dominated elite sprinting. The article touched on the issue of "channelling", ie athletes being pushed towards a sport which they are perceived to be good at, but the conclusion of the article made the case that black men were successful at sprinting due to their biomechanics (long legs and higher proportion of fast twitch glycolytic fibres).

The author made an excellent case for his conclusion but the article got me thinking and I couldn't help disagreeing, I strongly feel there are underlying social factors.

Consider this: how many Mexican sprinters has there been at the olympics in the past 50 years? I searched online and couldn't find a single one.

Does this mean Mexicans have biomechanics that are not suited to sprinting? I definetely don't think so, I just think that Mexico does not channel athletes towards sprinting as much as say the USA or Jamaica.

Consider this: Javier Hernandez (Mexican soccer player) was the fastest recorded player at the last World Cup at a speed of 32.15 km/h, this equates to a 100m time of 11.2 secs, that may not sound impressive compared with elite sprinters but it's important to note that Hernandez was running on grass and wearing studded boots which gives alot more resistance than a track, he was also in a fatigued state as the time was recorded during a competitive game and finally he was controlling a ball at his feet!

Given plenty of rest, on a running track, wearing light running spikes and without a ball to worry about I'm sure everyone would agree his time would dramatically improve.

Take this hypothetical example even further; imagine aged 10 or 11 Javier Hernandez joined a track team rather than a football club, he specialzed in running short distances with maximal effort,he had expert instruction on running technique and in his late teens was introduced to maximal resistance training which would alter his muscle fibre composition to have a higher proportion of fast glycolytic fibres.

Obviously this is a hypothetical situation but surely if this had been the case he wouldn't be far off elite sprinting times.

Portugal doesn't often have sprinters participating in Olympic finals either, though Christiano Ronaldo (portugese footballer) has been recorded at speeds higher than Hernandez (33.6 km/h). Any T nation member would note the distinct simalrites in physique and biomechanics between Christiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt.

My point is that certain races are under represented at the elite level of sprinting not because genetic factors mean they are un-suited to this activity but because there are other social factors at work. Using the examples of the USA and Mexico or Portugal, the USA has a national framework in place for spotting talent and developing sprinters to collegiate and national level, it's not surprising that the USA has had more success in international competition that Mexico or Portugal who do not have the same development systems in place.

I know there will be lots of people who disagree with me but that was the point of starting this thread, I wanted to get more info and hear other thoughts on this subject.


I thought maybe you were trying to find a way to get some of the recently-deceased Joe Frazier's ghostly energy.


I remember when I was growing up all the white kids wanted to go to college, it was the goal. Sports were for fun.

Many, not all but many of the blacks wanted to play pro sports as a goal not a pipe dream.

They spent all their energy on sports. None I know of made it but if this mentality is normal, of course more blacks will wind up in pro sports, biomechanics aside.

You can't hit a goal you don't aim for.


This development is also important. Think about India and Indonesia, super populated countries yet under represented in sports. India at least has cricket, but it's rather poor in everything else except some minor sports.

Look at tennis. 99% of competitors are white and either European or from USA. The few good black ones that play right now are from European countries (Tsonga, Monfils). Tennis formation requires equipment, expensive coaches, etc.