The reason for the success of African athletics (Part 2)

Clearly, the factors that make up the top athletes are much more complicated than that, not just by a dominant gene in the body. Most recently, a team of geneticists at the University of Glasgow, Scotland proposed that the genomes of the most successful athletes were combined, influenced by different genetic traits.

While waiting for the final results of the gene’s impact, another reason is given to explain that athletes from Africa often have to walk or run long distances from an early age. Stories of athletes from Ethiopia, Jamaica or Kenya walking to school about 5 to 20km have become familiar.

However, scientists in Northern Europe have demonstrated that early training does not give too many advantages to African athletes. The report shows that the Nordic athletes with VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can load and consume in a minute) is not inferior to their African colleagues. In other words, the fitness level of African athletes is not different.

So where is the difference? Scientists believe that altitude is part of the answer. Many famous athletes of Kenya and Ethiopia were born and raised in an area of ​​2,000-2,500 m above sea level. This helps them improve the amount of hemoglobin (a protein in the blood that helps transport oxygen throughout the body) and haematocrit (the volume of red blood cells), leading to better working capacity of the muscles.

Not only that, East African athletes also have the ability to train with high intensity at this height. Iten and Addis Ababa – the two main training centers of Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes – are located at an altitude of about 2,400m above sea level.

It is the training in such strenuous conditions that helps African athletes adapt to running fast and durable without releasing much lactic acid which causes fatigue, contributing to significantly improving running performance.

There will be more research done but until now, it can be seen that the two good factors that make an important contribution to the success of African athletes come from special mechanics as well as forging ability and being trained in difficult conditions.


The reasons for the success of African athletics (Part 1)

More than 2,000 athletes from 201 countries compete for Olympic athletics medals, but on the run, the race is almost exclusively from athletes from Africa.

In recent Olympics, the content of running long and medium distance is always the gold mine of the athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia or originating from Africa. Defending champion 10,000 meters Mo Farah is an English national, but was born and lived as a child in Somalia.

Why are African athletes in general, especially the East African region, particularly outstanding at the marathons? Many people think that Africans possess a special trait in the genome.

This is a logical hypothesis if you look at the number of Olympic medals that African athletes have won over time, especially when they do not have the best facilities for training.

African athletes dominate ASIAD 17

As of the first three days of ASIAD athletics 17, 20 medal sets have been awarded. And out of these 20 events, up to 7 gold medals belong to African players.

Most of them are naturalized athletes from Africa of Middle Eastern countries like Qatar, Bahrain, UAE. Some of these athletes are even very famous in the international arena before moving to compete for the Asian countries mentioned above.

Before the absolute domination of the countries of the Middle East thanks to naturalization of African athletes, many people have criticized this. Korean athlete Kim Yong Gu said: “Korea would have won more if these African players had not played in ASIAD.”

Over the past 15 years, countless studies by scientists have been carried out to answer this question. But overall, there have been no studies that have identified specific traits in the African genome, with the exception of a few pieces of evidence that show a number of differences in body composition, such as a slender, veined figure. Calves have great resilience that helps them increase performance and running speed.