The role of black athletes at this years’ Olympics

Deerricka Green| Staff Writer


The United States, once again, has dominated in the athletic world. Some people, including Michael Johnson a runner that competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, believe black athletes have something to do with it.
In the aftermath of this year’s London Olympic Games, viewers spent hours lounging in their pajamas, watching anxiously as the World’s greatest athletes sprinted, flipped and alley-ooped their way to gold. With an impressive 104 medals counted, the United States, especially African-American Olympians, get to walk away with bragging rights. Despite this country’s tense history regarding race relations, in the opinions of some, the contributions of black athletes are essential to the United States’ ability to achieve a superior amount of medals each Olympics.

According to the United States Census Bureau, African Americans comprise less than 20% of U.S. population. However, in this year’s Olympic Games, black athletes were directly responsible for 38 of the 104 medals won. That’s approximately 40%. If black athletes were removed from this equation, the United States would only have walked away with 66 medals, placing the country behind rivals China and Russia.

Without the contribution of black athletes, the U.S. would have suffered in one of its most successful areas- track and field. Black-Americans were a force to be reckoned with. According to Johnson, this is due to his belief that “Descendants of West African slaves have a ‘superior athletic gene’ that gives black American and Caribbean athletes an advantage.”

In his documentary “Survival of the Fastest,” Johnson, delves into the scientific investigation that “selective breeding by slave owners and appalling conditions meant that only the strongest slaves endured, creating a group predisposed to record-breaking athletic performance.”

As part of a documentary, Johnson took a DNA test to confirm his West African descent. He then remarked, “Slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.” Johnson’s documentary can be found on the BBC and CNN websites.

The existence of a “superior athletic gene” remains to be seen, but a fact that is clear, especially in the wake of the London Games. Despite the checkered past of black people, undeniably we have a golden ancestry.