Why are the fastest sprinters of West African descent? Why are the fastest swimmers usually caucasian?

In a paper published online in the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics, Bejan, and co-authors Edward Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University currently teaching at Howard University, and Duke graduate Jordan Charles, argue that the answer lies in athletes’ centers of gravity. That center tends to be located higher on the body of blacks than whites. The researchers believe that these differences are not racial, but rather biological.


“Blacks tend to have longer limbs with smaller circumferences, meaning that their centers of gravity are higher compared to whites of the same height,” Bejan said. “Asians and whites tend to have longer torsos, so their centers of gravity are lower.”

Bejan and Jones cite past studies of the human body which found that on average, the center of gravity is about three percent higher in blacks than whites. Using this difference in body types, the researchers calculated that black sprinters are 1.5 percent faster than whites, while whites have the same advantage over blacks in the water. The difference might seem small, Bejan said, but not when considering that world records in sprinting and swimming are typically broken by fractions of seconds.

The center of gravity for an Asian is even more advantageous to swimming than for a white, but because they tend not to be as tall, they are not setting records, Bejan said.


In the past many assumptions about differences between races were motivated by hatred and were flat out inaccurate. For an interesting exploration of those check out The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.

I did a deeper dive on the subject of discrimination here.

I’m curious to read this book: Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession. It’s by Studs Terkel, author of the classic, Working.

Related posts:

Are anti-Semites more or less accurate at telling if someone is Jewish?

Does stereotyping increase with age?

Does race affect who gets voted off AMERICAN IDOL?

Is race less of a factor for African-Americans in getting a job than it was 15 years ago?

Do “African American” films make money or not?

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