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Captain Planet

Why the progeny of slaves will strike gold at the Olympics

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Daily Mail...

By John Naish

PUBLISHED: 02:18, 3 July 2012 | UPDATED: 13:20, 3 July 2012

Could the world-beating sprinting prowess of Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt really be down to his West African ancestors’ horrific ordeals at the hands of British slave traders and plantation owners?

Jamaican athletes have certainly made a speciality of dominating sprint races in recent years. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, they won the men and women’s 100m finals, the men and women’s 200m finals — and the men won the 4 x 100m relay. Quite something for an island with a population smaller than Wales.

That supremacy is likely to be reinforced at the London Olympics, thanks perhaps to a new pretender, Yohan Blake, who trounced Bolt, his training partner, in the 200m final at the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston last week. Bolt, meanwhile, still holds the world 100m sprint record, with a breathtaking time of 9.58 seconds.

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Tough ancestry: Could the sprinting prowess of Jamaican athletes such as Johan Blake, left, and Usain Bolt, right, be down to their slave trade roots

Clearly, such dominance cannot be gained without gruelling training regimes, specialised diets and expert coaching. But U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson, who is of West African descent, now believes that athletes like him have another weapon in their armoury: a unique genetic inheritance.

In a TV documentary, Johnson argues that descendants of slaves from West Africa (all Afro-Caribbean people owe their presence in the Caribbean to slavery dating from the 16th century) have a ‘superior athletic gene’. And it’s this that will put black Caribbean sprinters on the podium top spots at the London Games.

Such talk is controversial, alarmingly redolent as it is of the racial-superiority theories propounded by Nazi scientists in the Thirties and used to justify the genocide of millions of people deemed ‘genetically inferior’.

Johnson, however, is unabashed: ‘It is a taboo subject in the States, but it is what it is,’ he says. ‘Why shouldn’t we discuss it?’

Usain Bolt holds similar beliefs. The sprinter was born in Trelawny Parish, a Jamaican area that was formerly the site of several slave plantations.

Asked about his record-breaking 100m performance in 2009, he said: ‘It’s a background from slavery. The guys back in the day were so strong from physical work . . . the genes are really strong.’

The controversial theory supporting these claims goes back to 2003, when Australian scientists discovered that a gene called ACTN3 has variants which may give performance advantage to the muscles of elite athletes.

In effect, it can give sprinters a boost because it gives extra power to muscle cells that are required for fast, forceful actions. Studies show that this ‘sprint’ version of the ACTN3 gene is more common in Jamaicans, for example, and others of West African descent than in people of European ancestry.

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Controversial: Michael Johnson is presenting his 'Survival of the Fastest' programme on Channel 4 on July 5

The theory speculates that this gene has been concentrated in these athletes because their ancestors journeyed from captivity in West Africa to slavery in the Caribbean under brutal conditions.

Only the toughest survived. During one such voyage in 1732, more than 95 per cent of slaves perished — 170 were herded on to the ship and only six got off alive.

Cruelty on board those ships could compound the effects of disease, insanitary conditions and overcrowding. One notorious case involved the British-owned slave-ship Zong, which lost its bearings while bound for Jamaica in 1782.

After three months, 60 of the 440 slaves on board had already died. Captain Luke Collingwood’s human cargo was perishing and his hopes of profit were being replaced by fears of bankruptcy.

So he decided to pull an insurance scam, and ordered his crew to throw 132 of the weaker slaves overboard to drown.

He told insurers that he had been forced to do it because of dwindling water supplies.

The captain would have succeeded, but for the whistleblowing conscience of the chief mate, James Kelsal, who revealed that there were still 420 gallons of water on board when they had docked at Black River Port in Jamaica a month later.

The ship’s owners were taken to court in London — for insurance fraud rather than murder. No officers or crew were charged over the deliberate killings.

Clearly, those few slaves who survived the crossings were made of extremely tough stuff. For them to survive long enough subsequently to have children involved them being resilient enough to withstand life in slavery on plantations.

Towards the end of the 1700s, another factor came into play: selective breeding.

In this period, the price of imported slaves to Jamaica was rising rapidly, and there was increasing talk of abolishing the barbarous practice of slave-shipping.

Plantation owners began to believe that their most economical answer was to raise their own slaves. They went about it with characteristic inhumanity, breeding the toughest slaves for strength and treating their charges as though they were breeding cattle.

One Jamaican plantation inventory from 1790 listed 408 slaves by occupation, such as cooks, watchmen and field workers. But the largest group listed 62 women who were ‘kept for breeding’. These were called ‘breeding wenches’ or ‘belly women’.

Where possible, parents were selected for their strength.

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Problem: In 1781, sailors of the slave ship ZONG threw sick African captives overboard for their insurance value in an action for the safety of the ship rather than risk their 'nature deaths' that would not be covered by insurers

Around the same time, a white Jamaican sugar plantation owner’s wife, A. C. Carmichael, wrote a pamphlet on breeding one’s own slaves. It recommended separating babies early from their mothers, so freeing the women for menial labour while their children were raised by women too old to work on the fields.

The children were to be integrated into the workforce virtually as soon as they could walk — to do any light tasks around the plantation they were thought capable of performing. Such conditions would, understandably, work in favour of a physically stronger population.

It has led Jamaican scientists to propound the theory that Caribbean sprinters are athletically special because those tough enough to survive these awful rigours must have had genes which made them unusually resilient.

William Aiken, a Jamaican sports doctor, believes the fact that Jamaicans excel at sprinting is a legacy of being descended from the ‘fittest of the fit slaves’.

But can it all come down to something as basic as a variation of one gene — ACTN3?

While many commentators are happy to suggest it does, one of the scientists involved in originally discovering this gene’s powers is far more sceptical.

Daniel MacArthur, a researcher at the Institute for Neuromuscular Research at Sydney University, was part of the team that found how the ACTN3 gene helps stimulate the muscle cells which are needed for generating rapid, forceful contraction in activities such as sprinting.

His studies show that the ‘sprint’ version of ACTN3 is, indeed, more common in Jamaicans — 98 per cent of black Jamaicans have at least one copy, compared with 82 per cent in individuals of European ancestry. Yet he believes it plays only a ‘pretty small’ role in Jamaican sprinters’ success.

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British success: UK's recent triumphs in cycling have been helped by an increase in the amount of resources thrown at them

In the journal Genetic Future, he writes: ‘It is almost certainly true that Usain Bolt carries at least one “sprint” variant of the ACTN3 gene, but then so do I (along with around five billion other humans worldwide). But that doesn’t mean you’ll see me in the 100m final in London. Unfortunately for me, it takes a lot more than one lucky gene to create an Olympian.’

For success at the Olympic games, MacArthur believes there are going to be many other factors — cultural, social and economic — also at play. Indeed, Jamaican experts believe in this ‘combination’ theory of success.

For example, Dr Errol Morrison, an endocrinologist and the president of Jamaica’s University of Technology, says that diet may play a crucial role — particularly the staples of salt fish, yams and bananas which are rich in protein, carbohydrate and vital sources of energy.

Dr Morrison says Jamaican youngsters grow up on a diet that is so beneficial they might as well take a daily dose of steroids. And such nutrition may well boost any genetic advantage that Jamaican athletes are born with, he says.

But there is surely something else at play, too — the national will to win.

The short-term explanation for Jamaica’s success is that the country took the decision to pour its resources in recent years into getting better at its most winnable events. And in its case, these events are the sprints.

The same has happened with Team GB concentrating on cycling, and its remarkable subsequent success with stars such as Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. So while the ACTN3 gene may play some contributory role in the wider recipe for Jamaican success, would anyone seriously suggest there is a single British gene for riding bicycles quickly?

Instead, we are only at the beginning of scientifically beginning to unravel the complex tapestry of factors which give Jamaican athletes the capability of beating the best of the rest of the world at sprinting.

Some of these factors will undoubtedly be due to powerful elements in Jamaica’s modern culture, such as diet and a deep sporting passion — but also, somewhere in a wide variety of genes, there will be the bigger story of a cruel past.

VIDEO: Watch the trailer here...

And if you're interested...

http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t897810/

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LOL THAT SITE

Remember we tried invading it lol

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Scientific Racism if you ask me .

Could it just be because black people we are the originals lol (just joking)

Seriously though each group of people has something they excel at better than the other .

For instance

You put a white man in a swimming pool and a black man and you tell me who wins .

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LOL THAT SITE

Remember we tried invading it lol

that was jokes

i got banned like 5 times in 10 minutes

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Scientific Racism if you ask me .

Could it just be because black people we are the originals lol (just joking)

Seriously though each group of people has something they excel at better than the other .

For instance

You put a white man in a swimming pool and a black man and you tell me who wins .

and there are reasons for all of them.

This is just a theory as to the explanation, nothing racist about it.

and white people are better at swimming because they evolved lighter bone density.

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Lol affluent middle class people who have access to decent facilities are better swimmers, it just so happens that most of them are white, nothing to do with bone structure.

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:rofl:

Bones you know. Nigga just swim. Aint like I'm gonna drown faster than a white guy.

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Lol affluent middle class people who have access to decent facilities are better swimmers, it just so happens that most of them are white, nothing to do with bone structure.

Ok, so why are 100% of the best sprinters in the world black?

Is that down to facilities also?

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I don't see how denser bones would make you a better sprinter. Surely if white people have less dense bones they would be lighter and therefore better at sprinting as well as swimming?

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you "need" a fortune of facilities to become a young potential world champion sprinter, you will do to polish the skills though, but by then the talent has been spotted and will be helped out,

certain kids in poorer countries have never even seen a professional or any pool, that Eddie the eel guy had never been in one until the olympic games. he practiced by swimming in the ocean lol.

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You didn't answer the question.

Why are black sprinters better than white sprinters in your opinion?

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in terms of this topic interestingly last week i was looking into that Espn 30 for 30 film about Jimmy the Greek i think his name is, who was a sports reporter in America who was sacked after saying that Black athletes were better than other races due to being bred that way during the times of Slavery,

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I have no idea mate, there may well be a genetic link, however bone density has nothing to do with it. I also think that socio-economic factors have more to do with white domination of swimming events than genetic ones.

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You say you have no idea then say bone density has nothing to do with it.

You can't be unsure and positive in the same instance.

With a stronger skeletal frame comes more support for stronger muscles which = power.

There are significant differences between body composition in blacks and whites and this is proven.

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/6/1392.full

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You didn't answer the question.

Why are black sprinters better than white sprinters in your opinion?

it could be down to a million and one reasons,

diet,

Hunger to escape poverty

that being a popular provision offered to youth over here, whereas over here for instance kids tend to play more football.

it being arguably the biggest sport due to the country having a good historic track record, which makes it more feasible to make it big than for example football,

they have role-models in the field so stick at it and are inspired. (my mum has a cousin who went hard at track and field in order to get a scholarship in America.)

but then the question is in America for instance when people of both White and Black backgrounds take up track and field so that points towards some sort of genetic disparity.

not particularly sure if its down to anything genetic per se, but i guess a scientist could tell you more,

sprinting with the exception of Usain Bolt tends to be dominated by atheltic well built and explosive men, not sure how bone density effects that, but it may well do

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You didn't answer the question.

Why are black sprinters better than white sprinters in your opinion?

it could be down to a million and one reasons,

diet,

Hunger to escape poverty

that being a popular provision offered to youth over here, whereas over here for instance kids tend to play more football.

it being arguably the biggest sport due to the country having a good historic track record, which makes it more feasible to make it big than for example football,

they have role-models in the field so stick at it and are inspired. (my mum has a cousin who went hard at track and field in order to get a scholarship in America.)

but then the question is in America for instance when people of both White and Black backgrounds take up track and field so that points towards some sort of genetic disparity.

not particularly sure if its down to anything genetic per se, but i guess a scientist could tell you more,

sprinting with the exception of Usain Bolt tends to be dominated by atheltic well built and explosive men, not sure how bone density effects that, but it may well do

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You say you have no idea then say bone density has nothing to do with it.

You can't be unsure and positive in the same instance.

With a stronger skeletal frame comes more support for stronger muscles which = power.

There are significant differences between body composition in blacks and whites and this is proven.

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/6/1392.full

Honestly that isn't enough. I'll argue more when I'm sober tomorrow.

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That question weren't to you Kompressor but you made some good point's nonetheless.

but then the question is in America for instance when people of both White and Black backgrounds take up track and field so that points towards some sort of genetic disparity.

Also youth facilities in America are leaps and bounds beyond that in Jamaica so this is proof something's are beyond economic factors.

sprinting with the exception of Usain Bolt tends to be dominated by atheltic well built and explosive men, not sure how bone density effects that, but it may well do

Even saying that Usain Bolt is a freak, he is 6'5.

Even looking relatively slim next to a Maurice Greene or Asafa Powell, due to his height he would probably have a similar if not larger amount of bone and muscle mass.

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It's bollocks. Why aren't there loads of amazing black Olympic swimmers?

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because instead of spending hours and hours a week in a swimming pool honing their skills they haven't got access to those facilities,

Back when my chick was at school she used to compete in swimming, she had 4 days of training a week and these sessions were 2 hours or more, how many Jamaican or even low income kids are afforded that type of time in quality facilities,

i've believed for years that if more poor kids be they black or white were given professional tennis lessons, we'd have more quality players.

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whens the channel 4 doc on?

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Jamaicans have actually qualified for Olympic swimming events though, more often than not they don't get out of the heats.

Regarding Tennis I agree socio economic factors play a huge role, the Williams sisters are proof that with dedication this can be overcome though.

Swimming and Tennis are 2 completely different sports however.

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Jamaicans have actually qualified for Olympic swimming events though, more often than not they don't get out of the heats.

Regarding Tennis I agree socio economic factors play a huge role, the Williams sisters are proof that with dedication this can be overcome though.

Swimming and Tennis are 2 completely different sports however.

ice hockey is similar in that i think its an economic factor, but now canada and scandanavia have become a lot more multi-cultural theres been a big increase in black hockey players coming through and even making a big impact in the NHL.

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I think the problem is many of you are looking at running and swimming as true sports whilst the proper term for them would be actions.

Running is a form of terrestrial locomotion while swimming is aquatic locomotion, they are basic types of animal travel on land and through water.

Racing has been devised as a way of measuring success in running and swimming but they are not true sports in the way Football or Ice Hockey have been created which requires multiple skill sets and props.

In the wikipedia article for aquatic locomotion there is a sub heading for buoyancy, look at how many times it refers to low density.

Buoyancy

Many aquatic/marine organisms have developed organs to compensate for their weight and control their buoyancy in the water. These structures, make the density of their bodies very close to that of the surrounding water. Some hydrozoans, such as siphonophores, has gas-filled floats; the Nautilus, Sepia, and Spirula (Cephalopods) have chambers of gas within their shells; and most teleost fish and many lantern fish (Myctophidae) are equipped with swim bladders. Many aquatic and marine organisms may also be composed of low-density materials. Deep-water teleosts, which do not have a swim bladder, have few lipids and proteins, deeply ossified bones, and watery tissues that maintain their buoyancy. Some sharks' livers are composed of low-density lipids, such as hydrocarbon squalene or wax esters (also found in Myctophidae without swim bladders), which provide buoyancy.

Low density is crucial for buoyancy in swimming, all you have to do is compare a Shark's skeletal frame to a similar sized land animal.

shark_skeleton1m.jpg

Lower bone density is something that through evolution white people developed and this gives them the advantage in competitive swimming.

On the flip side while whites developed lower bone density this also impacted their muscle ratio and testosterone levels.

West African black people tend to be naturally leaner with higher muscle mass, this type of body structure lends itself more to sprinting.

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