Does Height Matter for women sprinters?

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.

women sprinters

Does Height Matter for women sprinters?

Airnel T. Abarra*

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

Does Height AlwayMakees Might?  Deconstructing the Height Hype in
women 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.

100m sprints have been the gold standard for the fastest athlete. For more than 30 years, the Philippines haven’t won a medal in Asian Games in the 100m men.

female sprinter height comparisons.

Height Hype in Female SprinBodybody – Do we think that our women sprinters are short enough not to win the female century dash in Asiad?

Let us analyze examples 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 for “shorter” sprinters.

It is significant in better performance in 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 is 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 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?

The majority of them; particularly if you include all males in the world, regardless of their ages, athletic prowess, etc.

Olympic 100-meter women’s sprinters who ran the quickest times in 2012 did so in 10.75–10.81 seconds. These times are quick enough to have made the preliminary round of the men’s 100m. 13 men in the preliminary round failed to break the time of 11.0 seconds.

If the Olympic athletes are the best in the world, it follows that the quickest female sprinters can outrun the majority of men.

Men in high school and college can run the 100-meter sprint in less than 11 seconds, though.

You can identify exceptionally quick male sprinters who run sub-11.00 by looking through the results of a few U.S. state high school track meets. They are 17, 18, and 19 years old.

In the United States, it appears thundreds of male sprinters between the ages of 16 and 25 (high school and college) can can claim to have raced a race in under 11.0 seconds. Wyoming, which has a minimal population, may only contain 10–20 people.

A state with a sizable population, like California, might have 1,000. Extrapolating, you might speculate that there are 10,000 or more male sprinters in the United States who are as quick as the quickest female sprinter. Because there are certainly fast runners who don’t participate in official races, the number may be higher.

10,000 American males out of 150,000,000 total males, or 0.0067%

That’s simply my educated estimate; it’s not a solution supported by hours and hours of investigation.



#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 watchinGamegameThronesones 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.

While 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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