Female Sprinters Height Performance

Does Height Influence Performance in Female Sprinters?

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Andrew Pirie

Female Sprinters Height Performance

Airnel T. Abarra

“Female Sprinters Height Performance: How Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Sha’Carri Richardson Challenge Athletic Norms”

Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, standing at 4’11”, defies the common belief that taller athletes perform better, especially when she outpaced 5’11” Blessing Ogkabre.

Her unique somatype, is characterized by pronounced glutes and quads. Is a testament to genetics playing a pivotal role in sprinting advantages, much more than just height.

Similarly, the rise of Sha’Carri Richardson who at 5’0 just set a new World Championship record of 10.65 in the Budapest 2023 World Championships, another short-statured sprinter, challenges the traditional athletic narrative.

In countries like the Philippines, where basketball dominates and height is often celebrated, shorter athletes often remain underrepresented unless they achieve exceptional feats. Yet, in the world of 100m sprints, height isn’t the sole determinant of success, as the Philippines’ 30-year medal drought in the Asian Games attests.

(L-R) Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson and Ivory Coast Marie-Josée Ta Lou race to the line during the first heat in the women’s 100m during the Diamond League athletics meeting at Gateshead International Stadium in Gateshead, north-east England on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

“Female Sprinters Height Performance: Debunking Myths and Embracing Strengths”

The athletic realm has long been influenced by the belief that height is synonymous with sprinting prowess. This perspective, however, is being challenged, especially when analyzing the performance of female sprinters in premier events like the Asiad.

Historically, the limelight favoured taller sprinters, attributing their longer strides as an edge in covering more ground swiftly. Yet, as sprinting dynamics evolved, so did the insights into the factors driving success in the sport.

Research by Uth (2005) underscores that there’s no universal optimal height for sprinters. Both height extremes come with their own sets of challenges. A study by Watts et al. (2012) further elucidates that an athlete’s somatotype, their specific body structure, is instrumental in determining their sprinting efficacy. Notably, shorter female sprinters have showcased dominant performances in shorter races, leveraging their heightened stride frequency. This is in stark contrast to their taller counterparts who often have an edge in longer sprints (Schiffer, 2009).

In essence, the Female Sprinters Height Performance narrative is shifting. Height, while influential, isn’t the definitive factor for success. Shorter female sprinters, armed with their distinct physique, have the potential to eclipse their taller peers, particularly when their training is tailored to amplify their innate stride frequency strengths (Paruzel-Dyja et al. 2006).


The Rise of Shorter Sprinters

In the world of athletics, where every millisecond counts, the physical attributes of top athletes have always been a topic of fascination. One intriguing observation in recent years is the trend of top female sprinters leaning towards the shorter side. This shift challenges long-standing beliefs about the ideal physique for sprinting success.

The late 20th and early 21st centuries witnessed a surge in shorter female sprinters dominating the tracks. Names like Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, standing at 4’11”, and Sha’Carri Richardson, measuring around 5’1″, have become synonymous with sprinting excellence. Their successes have brought to light the advantages that shorter sprinters might possess:

  1. Explosive Starts: Shorter sprinters often demonstrate explosive power right off the blocks, a crucial advantage in shorter races like the 100m dash.
  2. Higher Stride Frequency: While they might have a shorter stride length, many shorter sprinters compensate with a higher stride frequency, allowing them to maintain top speeds.
  3. Optimal Center of Gravity: A lower centre of gravity can aid in better balance and stability, especially during the acceleration phase.
  4. Efficient Energy Utilization: Shorter limbs can mean less energy expenditure in moving them, potentially leading to more efficient sprints.
Female Sprinters Height Performance
female sprinter height comparisons.

Changing Training Paradigms

The rise of shorter female sprinters has also influenced training methodologies. Coaches are now focusing more on enhancing stride frequency, explosive power, and technique, rather than just trying to maximize stride length.


The Broader Implication

The trend towards shorter top female sprinters is not just a statistical anomaly. It’s a testament to the evolving nature of sports. It underscores the idea that success isn’t solely determined by physical attributes. But is a combination of genetics, training, determination, and sometimes, challenging the status quo.

In conclusion, while height can be an advantage in many sports, the world of female sprinting is proving that it’s not the only path to the podium. The recent trend of shorter sprinters dominating the scene is a powerful reminder that talent, grit, and innovation often trump conventional wisdom.


Female Sprinters Height Performance: Challenging the Tall Athlete Stereotype”

Taller female sprinters often grapple with challenges tied to their height, such as increased lateral movement during runs. This lateral shift, accentuated by broader hips, causes their centre of gravity to follow an “S” trajectory during acceleration. Surprisingly, even a height comparable to sprint legends like Usain Bolt, standing at 196cm, doesn’t guarantee an advantage in female sprinting. The research underscores that success isn’t solely hinged on height. Instead, it’s the sprinter’s form, technique, and adherence to biomechanical principles that truly matter. Moreover, strength and conditioning emerge as paramount over mere height considerations.

In the Philippines, the cultural adulation for taller athletes often overshadows the diverse strengths of varied physiques. Coaches and trainers must pivot from these ingrained perceptions. Leaning into empirical studies to guide talent scouting and training methodologies for female sprinters.

Conclusion: Rethinking the Height Paradigm in Female Sprinting

The narrative surrounding the ideal physique for sprinters has been deeply entrenched in the athletic community for decades. However, the recent successes of shorter female sprinters are not only challenging but reshaping these long-held beliefs. The prowess of athletes like Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Sha’Carri Richardson underscores that performance isn’t solely dictated by stature. Their achievements, set against the backdrop of their height, emphasize the importance of factors beyond just physical measurements.

The Female Sprinters Height Performance discourse is a testament to the evolving nature of sports science and training methodologies. It highlights the need to move beyond traditional metrics and embrace a more holistic understanding of what contributes to athletic success. In the realm of female sprinting. It’s evident that attributes like stride frequency, explosive power, and biomechanical efficiency can outweigh the advantages of height.

For nations like the Philippines, where height is often seen as a hallmark of athletic potential, these revelations serve as a reminder to broaden talent identification criteria. It’s a call to recognize and nurture diverse physiques and skill sets. Ensuring that potential champions aren’t overlooked due to preconceived notions.

In essence, the world of female sprinting is sending a clear message: Performance is a complex interplay of genetics, training, determination, and sometimes, defying the norms. As we move forward, it’s imperative to champion diversity in athletic representation, celebrating and learning from the successes of those who challenge the status quo.


For further insights or feedback, reach out to the author at [email protected].


  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



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