Written by sports guru- Wallace Muya:
It is no secret, the athletes from the East of Africa have dominated the athletics over the past couple of years. Be it in the Olympics, World Championship events or other platforms that showcase long-distance athletics, the athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia, have to be credited for setting all sorts of new records.
There are several factors that attribute to these high records set be the Ethiopians and the Kenyans. Most are natural, be it physical, biological or geographical. It is actually less of financial reasons that these guys do it.
Most of the athletes from both nations, come from and train in high-altitude regions. The Nandi region (2,047m / 6,716ft) in Kenya and Arsi (2,430m / 7,970ft) and Shewa in Ethiopia, are mountainous districts that are packed with a certain air that really builds on the athlete’s body.
The air plus long-time endurance training leads to an increase in red blood cells. More red blood cells means more oxygen-storing haemoglobin passing through the veins. It also means that carbon dioxide can easily pass through the body.
These guys can therefore beat any other human being at long-distance races as their bodies have grown to be able to. The biology of the body has therefore been set do be dominant by the geography of where these athletes hail from.
Other than the biology mentioned above, these athletes have a certain set of bodies that are typically capable of going for miles without getting tired. According to Ben Oakley, a Senior Lecturer at the Open University in Sport and Fitness, East African runner’s lightweight bodies could be a significant factor in their triumphs in competitive running. Ohakley suggests that having a small and lightweight frame is ideal when competing in high temperatures because it is easier for the body to dissipate heat. Since the Olympics take place in the summer, you can understand how these guys will definitely win the races.
Researchers have also concluded that East African runners, as compared to Caucasian runners, often carry a few less grams on their feet and ankles. They therefore need less energy to maintain a quick pace and therefore have a better chance at Olympic success.
Kenya was colonised by the British and gained independence in 1963. Athletics, was implemented as part of the colonial rule system even before independence. Missionaries and the British military figures started promoting athletics in the area in the 20th Century. ‘Muscular Christianity’ was introduced by the work of mission schools.
This would explain why Kenyan athletes started breaking records in the 1960s. Wilson Kiprugut won the Bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics event whereas the Late Naftali Temu won Kenya the first Gold medal four years later in Mexico City.