Top Sprinters Genetics Factor

Old Article from BBC News 2003
Wednesday, 27 August 2003, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK

Darren Campbell, 100m bronze medallist at this week's World Athletics Championships

Has Darren Campbell got the gene?

Becoming one of the fastest men or women in the world is all about years of hard training, healthy eating, and early nights – or is it?

  • Scientists in Australia have found evidence to suggest that sprinters’ genetics may also play an important part.
  • They say top-class sprinters are more likely to copy a particular version of a gene called ACTN3 (Yang et al., 2003).
  • They believe this version, the R allele, enables them to produce the explosive bursts of speed they need.
  • R allele produces a protein called actinin, which is found in muscle fibers. Scientists believe it enables muscles to contract more quickly and powerfully.
  • The gene also comes in another form, the X allele. However, this version does not produce this protein.

Sprinters Genetics: Olympic athletes

Researchers at the Institute of Neuromuscular Research in Sydney carried out DNA tests on 300 athletes. And 50 of them represented Australia at the Olympic or international level in a variety of sports. While they also carried out similar tests on 400 ordinary people.


Screening would only ever give an indication, albeit a potentially valuable one, as to a child’s athletic promise
Rodney Walker, UK Sport

Sprinters Genetics: Born to Run? MRI scans reveal sprinters’ genetics have different bone structures from the rest of us

Sprinters Genetic

Sprinters running aren’t just faster than the rest of us. Also, their bones are different from non-athletes. Competitive sprinter’s genetics have significantly different bone structures, with changes that make them run faster.


The finding could lead to tests to see if someone has the potential to be a competitive sprinter.

Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging on the feet of competitive sprinters running with at least three years of sprint training. They found that they had longer bones significantly in their forefeet – 6.2 percent bigger than non-sprinters.

According to New Scientist magazine, they found that 95% of elite sprinters running had at least one copy of the R allele while 50% had two copies. This compares to the other volunteers. Just 72% of them had one copy of the R allele, while 30% had two copies.

The study, originally published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, also found differences between sprinters running and other athletes.


  1. They found that non-sprinters or those who participate in endurance sports, such as distance running, were also less likely to have this version of the gene.
  2. Just 76% of endurance athletes had one R allele, while 32% had two copies.
  3. The researchers also tested for the other version of this gene, the X allele.
  4. They found that just 5% of sprinters running had two copies of this gene. This compares to 24% of endurance athletes and 18% of ordinary volunteers.
  5. These differences prompted the researchers to speculate that athletes with two copies of the X allele were better suited to endurance sports.


People with two copies of the X allele cannot produce actinin-3, the protein needed to enable muscles to move quickly and powerfully.


Kathryn North, who led the study, said: “I hypothesis that absence of alpha-actinin-3 means that an individual’s muscles are more ‘slow’ in character, and better suited for endurance activities.”


Sprinters Genetics
Sprinters Genetics. ACTN3.

Sprinters Genetics screening

However, even members of the research team have conceded that the findings will not mean and could identify future Olympic champions early through sprinters’ genetics testing. Most experts believe many other genes may also play a role. Jason Gulbin, who coordinates scouting activities for Australia’s Institute of Sport, backed that view.


“Being an elite athlete is not entirely dependent on ACTN3. It is still highly contentious whether we can use genetic markers to predict performance at all. The research has not been done,” he told New Scientist.Rodney Walker, chairman of UK Sport, said genetic testing would serve only to identify people with potential.”Screening would only ever give an indication, albeit a potentially valuable one, as to a child’s athletic promise,” he said.


Their Achilles’ tendons were also different – with tendon lever arms 12 percent shorter than non-sprinters.

Sprinters Genetics
Sprinters Genetics

It’s unclear whether the training changes the foot or whether some people are ‘born to run. But the changes deliver a clear advantage – allowing people with ‘sprinter’s feet’ to generate greater force over a long time while running.


‘We made the most direct measurement possible of leverage in the Achilles tendon and found that sprinters’ tendons had shorter lever arms — or reduced leverage for pushing their bodies off of the ground — compared to non-sprinters,’ said Stephen Piazza, associate professor of kinesiology at Penn State University.


Josh Baxter, a graduate student, shorter Achilles tendon lever arms and longer toe bones permit sprinters to generate greater contact force between the foot and the ground and maintain that force for a longer time, thus providing advantages to people with sprinter-like feet.


To conduct their research, the scientists studied two groups of eight males for 16 people.

  • The first group was composed of sprinters who were involved in regular sprint training and competition.
  • The second group consisted of height-matched individuals who never had trained or competed in sprinting.


To be included in the sprinter group, individuals must currently be engaged in competitive sprinting and have at least three years of continuous sprint training (Waugh, 2012).


Asian Athletes Limited by Genes or Nurture?

(Dec 27) A debate on the prospects of Asian athletes in American sports passes. Without mention of Yao Ming, the Shanghai Sharks’ 7-6, 265-pound center. Who recently led China to an 83-82 upset over the U.S. His prospects as the likely top pick of the 2002 NBA draft have been trumpeted. Bby no lesser authorities than Michael Jordan and Bill Walton.

But the 21-year-old superstar is one in a billion (1.25 billion to be exact). Young Yao is the product, genetically and culturally, of a 6-10 father and 6-4 mother. Both of them played basketball for China’s national teams. His case is as likely to confuse the nature-vs-nurture debate as to help resolve it. After all, his height may be merely the tip of the genetic iceberg when it comes to his promise as a world-class basketball.

Asian Athletes Limited by Genes
Chinese Liu former world record holder in the Hurdles. Asian Athletes Limited by Genes?

More familiar to Asian Americans is Michael Chang (5-9), who won the French Open at age 17.

And Ichiro Suzuki (5-9), whose batting and base-stealing have lifted the Mariners from the basement to the heavens. Both seem endowed with standard physical equipment. But have outperformed more powerful physiques. And on the women’s side Kristi Yamaguchi, Michele Kwan, Seri Pak, and legions of Chinese divers and gymnasts have shown that champions needn’t be amazons.



But these successes haven’t silenced those who argue. As a race, Asians lack the genetic gifts to challenge black and white athletes in power sports. Asians are genetically smaller and weaker, they claim. And can only excel in sports calling for quickness and agility? They cite Asian underrepresentation in track and field, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, boxing, and the like (Asian Athletes Limited by Genes or Nurture? | Asian American Issues | GoldSea, n.d.)

  • Will the future mirror the past?
  • Are we genetically limited to excelling only in a few select sports?
  • Or will changing social and economic conditions produce a generation of Asian superstars across the sports spectrum?


Asian Athletes Limited by Genes
Su Bingtian is the fastest-ever China Man. Asian Athletes Limited by Genes?

since posting this article in 2013. Several Asian athletes have now broken the 10-second mark in the 100m. As of 8th June 2019, there have been 825 performances below 10 seconds in History. While the vast majority of these are predominately by black athletes. For this write-up, we will not consider wind-aided performances. 7 Asians have run in under 10 seconds.

Ogunode and Francis are Nigerians running for Qatar, and Al-Harthi and Sani Brown are mixed, black-blood athletes.  Brown’s father hails from Ghana. But he has a Japanese mother, so he runs for Japan.

Therefore only 3 ethnic Asians have broken the Sub-10-second barrier. Breaking stereotype Su of China holds the equal fastest over 100m at 9.91 with Ogunode. At the same time, Kiryu of Japan has run 9.98.

Who has run more Sub 10 Asians or Caucasians?

Filippo Tortu Lowers Italian Record below 10 seconds.
– Source: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images Europe)

While the dominance of Black and Mixed-Black blood athletes on the track is very evident. What about Sub 10 Asians vs. Sub 10 Caucasian athletes who have more?

First, note no Caucasian or Asian athletes have broken 9.90. Su of China holds the fastest mark at 9.91 (+0.2).

Christopher Lemaitre of France, the first non-black athlete to break 10, had a 9.92 in 2011.

Adam Gemili (Iranian and Moroccan descent) 9.97, Ramil Guliyev (Turkish ethnic) 9.97, and Filippo Tortu (Italy) 9.99 more recently.

So based on these figures, it’s pretty close at 3-4 for Asian to Caucasian males under 10 seconds.


Are average Caucasians more muscled than average Asians?

On average, yes. Blacks have the most, whilst Indians have the least

Mean lean muscle mass (kg)

  • black males = 65.6kg
  • White males = 62 kg
  • Hispanic males = 59.9 kg
  • Asian males = 59.6 kg
  • Indian males = 53.3 kg

At any given body fat mass value. South Asians had significantly less lean mass than each of the three other groups. After adjustment for age, height, humerus breadth, smoking status, physical activity, and diet.

Aboriginal, Chinese, and European men had 3.42 kg [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.55–5.29], 3.01 kg(95% CI = 1.33–4.70), and 3.57 kg (95% CI = 1.82–5.33) more lean mass than South Asian men at a given total fat mass, respectively”

Ethnic Variation in Fat and Lean Body Mass and the Association with Insulin Resistance.

Asian Indians tend to have more abdominal adipose tissue. Less lean body mass (LBM) and higher magnitude of insulin resistance (IR) despite falling in the normal range of body mass index (BMI).

The high value of the waist-hip ratio in Asian Indians may be due to the less lean mass of the hips and greater fat at the levels of waste [2].

Another study showed that Asian Indian men have low muscle mass and 30% more total body fat (BF) than other ethnic groups [3].

Low lean mass is also evident in Asian Indian neonates compared to white Caucasian neonates 

The lung capacity of Indians is 30 percent lower than North Americans or Europeans, or Chinese. Making them highly vulnerable to diabetes, heart attacks, or strokes, says a top scientist.

“Asian Indians had more fat, both total and in the abdominal region, with less lean mass, skeletal muscle and bone mineral than all other ethnic groups”

Body size, body composition, and fat distribution: a comparative analysis of European, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian Indian adults (Rush & Plank 2009).

“Asian Indians have different body phenotype from Europeans (36). The major differences are in high body fat, high truncal, subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat, and low muscle mass.”

“In particular, there is accumulating evidence that South Asians may have a ‘low fitness‘ phenotype which contributes to their elevated cardio-metabolic risk, and thus may particularly benefit from undertaking higher levels of physical activity (Hall & Co.) (2014).

In South Asians, a unique obesity phenotype of high abdominal fat is associated with increased cardiovascular risk

Studies in the South Asian diaspora residing in the U.K. during the early 1980s suggested the possibility of an Asian Indian or South Asian phenotype (Fig. 1). This term refers to a combination of characteristics that predisposes SA to the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Asian Athletes Limited by Genes


Additional Information Emailed Regarding Indian Athletes

You said statistically Indians have lower lean mass in an article 

  • However, what is the race of Indians?
  • Indians are Asian in landmass, not in genetics
  • In genetics, they are a Caucasian, Australoid, mongoloid land of people
  • Also, Arabs do way worse than Indians even grass root levels despite having higher per capita and less polluted lands 
  • Saudis and Gulf Arabs have to import athletes and have the money to do it too 
  • I looked at the lean body mass of Indian basketball players vs. Zimbabwean basketball players
  • It was 66 kg for Indian players 
  • It was 61 kg for Zimbabwean players 

The average per capita for India and Zimbabwe are about the same, with India being way more polluted on average, so less lung capacity, but the lean mass is just as much 

Let’s look at Asian medal tallies, which include middle eastern lands too 

If you add up all the Arab lands it still has fewer medals than India as a whole, not to mention a lot of athletes are imports in those lands 

Look at Arab lands that can’t afford to buy athletes like Iraq and Syria 

Also, Indians use to run sprints at the Asian Games in the 1950s before the Chinese and Japanese caught up in the 1980s.


Asian Athletes Limited by Genes or Nurture? | Asian American Issues | GoldSea. (n.d.). Asian Athletes Limited by Genes or Nurture? | Asian American Issues | GoldSea. Retrieved September 5, 2022, from

Hall, L. & M., Colin & Milne, Gillian & Wilson, John & MacFarlane, Niall & Forouhi, Nita & Hariharan, Narayanan & Salt, Ian & Sattar, Naveed & Gill, Jason. (2010). Fat Oxidation, Fitness and Skeletal Muscle Expression of Oxidative/Lipid Metabolism Genes in South Asians: Implications for Insulin Resistance?. PloS one. 5. e14197. 10.1371/journal.pone.0014197.

Rush, E. C., Freitas, I., & Plank, L. D. (2009). Body size, body composition, and fat distribution: a comparative analysis of European, Maori, Pacific Island and Asian Indian adults. The British Journal of Nutrition102(4), 632–641.

Waugh, R. (2012, January 25). Born to run? MRI scans reveal that sprinters have different bone structures from the rest of us. Born to Run? MRI Scans Reveal That Sprinters Have Different Bone Structures from the Rest of Us.

Yang, N., MacArthur, D. G., Gulbin, J. P., Hahn, A. G., Beggs, A. H., Easteal, S., & North, K. (2003, July 23). ACTN3 Genotype Is Associated with Human Elite Athletic Performance – PMC. PubMed Central (PMC).



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