Does Height Matter for a female sprinter? Amazing #1 Guide

5'0 Fraser Pryce Olympic Womens 100m Champion beating 5'11 Nigerian Blessing Ogkabre. Look at the physical development somatype of Fraser Pryce with larger glutes and quads which may be a result of genetics giving more advantage than height in the short sprints.

Does Height Matter for a female sprinter?

Airnel T. Abarra*

Top Female Sprinters 5’0 Fraser Pryce Olympic Women’s 100m Champion beating 5’11 Nigerian Blessing Ogkabre. Look at the physical development somatype of Fraser Pryce with larger glutes and quads, resulting from genetics giving more advantages than height in the short sprints.

Does Height Always Makes Might?  Deconstructing the Height Hype in Female Sprinters

It is always a familiar maxim that the taller the athlete, the better. In a basketball fanatic country like the Philippines, mainstream sports media mostly portray tall athletes positively.

In contrast, shorter ones only get noticed when they have shown higher points and still put on a comical perspective when citing the latter’s performance.

In Athletics, 100m sprints have been the gold standard for the fastest athlete. For more than 20 years, the Philippines haven’t won the gold medal in Asian Games in the 100m men.


Height Hype in Female Sprinter body – Do we think that our female athletes are short enough not to win the female century dash in Asiad?

Let us try a mini-meta analysis of different studies about the topic concerning the anthropometric measurement of sprinters.

Uth (2005) found out that there is no optimal height for sprinters.

Thus being too tall or too short can be a disadvantage.

Watts et al. (2012), on the other hand, proved that the body shape or somatotype of the athlete in sprinting should be the basis for selecting potential athletes.

Shorter athletes also have powerful strides in shorter races and can move with a greater frequency.

Whereas tall sprinters run faster in the longer sprint races. (Schiffer, 2009)
It also implied that stride frequency among women which is more significant to “shorter” sprinters.

It is significant in better performance in the sprints.

Stressing that “shorter women” of more robust build perform faster and suggested that coaches focus their training programs on enhancing the female athlete’s stride frequency. (Paruzel-Dyja et al. 2006)


The problem of taller female sprinters relies on the excessive lateral movement resulting from a taller structure.

And wider hips cause them more lateral displacement while running. 

And the center of gravity travels on an “S” shape pattern during acceleration. 

Thus having a taller woman sprinter can be a disadvantage even if someone is as tall as Usain Bolt at 196cm.

The studies reviewed show that height is not always a gold standard for the success of female sprinters.

 It is still dependent on the sprinting form and technique, rooted in different Biomechanics principles. 

Also evident in the studies presented that strength and conditioning are more critical in improving an athlete’s sprinting capability than paying attention to the athlete’s height.

This “hype” for a taller athlete can be traced to how we see our Philippines’ sporting culture.

 The portrayal of the popular culture that BEING tall as a sign of a sound body beats the purpose of diversity among athletes.

As coaches, we should go away from perceptions and rely on data from different studies to make talent identification and organize the training programs, especially for female athletes.

Comments are welcome by contacting the author at airnel.abarra@gmail.com.


References – Height Hype in Female Sprinters

  1. Paruzel-Dyja, M. Walaszcyk, A. & Iskra J. (2006) Elite Male and Female Sprinters’ Body Build, Stride Length, and Stride Frequency. Studies in Physical Culture and Tourism. University School of Physical Education in Katowice, Poland. 13, 1, 33-37
  2. Schiffer, J (2009) The Sprints New Studies In Athletics by International Association of Athletics Federations. 24:1 7-17
  3. Uth, N. (2005) Anthropometric Comparison of World-Class Sprinters and Normal Populations. Department Of Sport Science, University Of Aarhus, Aarhus N, Denmark – Journal Of Sports Science And Medicine (2005) 4, 608-616
  4. Valcicak, D. and LoRusso S. (2013) Spectrum: Journal of Student Research at St. Francis University, Loretto, PA . 3, 4-11
  5. Watts, AS, Coleman, I & Nevill, A (2012) The changing shape characteristics associated with success in world-class sprinters. Journal of Sports Sciences. Vol. 30, Iss. 11, 2012

*- Airnel T. Abarra is currently a part-time faculty member at the Department of Physical Education- Ateneo de Davao University and Head Coach of the said school’s Track Team. Also, Mr. Abarra is one of the pioneering writers of PinoyAthletics.info


What percentage of males(all) would the fastest female sprinter in the world beat in a 100-meter sprint?

Most of them. Especially if you refer to all males worldwide – all ages, all athletic abilities, etc.

The fastest female sprinters in the 2012 Olympics were running 100 meters in 10.75-10.81 seconds. Those times are fast enough to have qualified for the men’s 100m in the preliminary round. There were 13 men in the preliminary round that failed to break 11.00 seconds.

If the Olympics represent the best athletes worldwide, you would have to conclude that the very fastest female sprinters are fast enough to beat most men.

However, young men in high school and college can run the 100m sprint in sub-11.00 seconds. Scanning through the results of a few U.S. state high school track results, you can find very fast male sprinters (ages 17, 18, and 19 years old) that run sub-11.00.

In the U.S., it seems there are probably hundreds of male sprinters between the age of 16-25 (high school and college) in each state that has run an officially timed race and can claim to be sub-11.00 seconds in the 100m. A small population like Wyoming might only have 10-20. A large population state like California might have 1,000. Extrapolating, you could venture to say that there are probably on the order of 10,000 male sprinters in the U.S. that are as fast as the fastest female sprinter. It could easily be higher than that because there are probably fast runners but don’t run official races.

10,000 out of 150,000,000 males in the U.S. – that’s 0.0067%

That’s just my guess – not an answer with hours and hours of research behind it.


#1 female time in the 100m: 10.49 Florence GRIFFITH-JOYNER

This would place her currently a shared #6056 on the global list, including male athletes.

Source: World Athletics | 100 Metres – men – senior – outdoor

Now obviously, Florence GF can no longer run that time, she ran her record decades ago. But it does indicate that the fastest 100m sprint women would be faster than all but a tiny percentage of men.

This makes sense because while there is a slight physical advantage for men ‘on average,’ you will make up for that with training compared to somebody sitting on their sofa eating Doritos while watching a game of thrones or whatever.

The whole ‘men are naturally stronger” thing, while true, does not mean that every man beats every woman in every sport. Female champions will outperform the average Joe.


Why are female sprinters as muscular as fitness competitors?

Because they carry a high percentage of fast-twitch type 2 muscle fibers.

These fibers are also capable of a lot of hypertrophy.

Type 2 fibers are big glycolytic fibers recruited for activities involving a lot of muscle force, strength activities, and explosive activities.

Those born with more fast-twitch type 2 fibers will be more explosive athletes and generally build larger muscles.



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