Jamaican Sprinters: Always Better Home-Grown

Chris KiserContributor IFebruary 25, 2009

The question many American fans were left with after the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics was: How were those Jamaicans so fast?

The only answer provided comes from the Jamaican athletes and their coaches, who say it has everything to do with their home-based training and loyalty to their country.  

Elite Jamaican sprinters including triple-medal winner and World Record holder Usain "Lightning" Bolt, former record holder Asafa Powell, and Beijing women's gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser all train in their home country; Bolt at the University of the West Indies, Powell and Fraser at UTECH (Jamaica's University of technology).

All of these sprinters have been offered countless full scholarships to come and run at various prestigious universities in the States, but choose to stay home and train where they are confident.  The weight rooms they train in are not what Americans would consider "high class".  The facilities contain old rusty weights, a lack of air conditioning, and cramped physical space to work with.  The tracks that they train on are typically traditional grass-field tracks.  One could easily state that the majority of high school runners in the U.S have better training conditions than the top sprinters in the world.  

The athletes claim that the home-style training "means more" to them, according to Fraser.  They appreciate the close relationship that they build with the coaches who are obviously not there for the money (not much to be had) and care about the heart of their sport.  Bolt explains how he did not want to take a scholarship to run in the U.S because the way they run in college would cause him to "burnout".  His opinion is that America strays away from the running aspect and tries to hard to make it complicated.  Bolt's main diet consists of mostly chicken nuggets and yams.  He says that the comforts of home, along with the discomforts of his training facilities and methods, have all combined to mold him into the condition that he has achieved, that of world domination.  

The main question that many brought up after the Olympics was that of performance enhancement.  While the Jamaicans claim to be all natural, not even using legal supplements, many believe that they have a far advanced system of blood doping.  This could just be an excuse for how badly Jamaica beat everyone in August, or a legitimate insight into how advanced their seemingly antique methods really are. 

While it is obvious that not any athlete could train in their backyard and run a 9.69 100m dash at the Olympics, there is definitely something to be said about the pride-driven attitude of these Jamaican superstars.  Does the U.S really "burn out" runners by working them too hard in high school and college, shortening their careers, or are athletes like Bolt, Powell, and Fraser simply freaks who are just born that great?

Obviously, there are great arguments for both sides.  Former 200m and current 400m world record holder Michael Johnson sprinted well into his thirties, and he ran the college and pro circuits throughout his career.  Both philosophies on training are enticing to look into, the coming years of track and field should be filled with new world records and exciting competition.