White Men Cannot Jump
Basketball’s domination by African Americans was the inspiration for
the 1990s movie with the above title. Tall, athletic, very much at home
in the fast and furious game, African Americans have come to dominate
this huge money-spinner in the USA.
Elegant running, incredibly well timed passing, shooting with
nonchalant brilliance while under threat are some of the enthralling
scenes of sheer athleticism we now associate with these sporting heroes.
African Americans have made their country a super power in Basketball.
However to conclude that white men cannot jump will be unjustified.
There are many Basketball players of other ethnic backgrounds at the
heels of the American team. At this year’s Olympics countries like
Australia and Russia who are not too far behind, pressed the favoured
There was a time when it was said that black men could not play golf.
Of course that was before Tiger Woods happened. Yet even now there are
so few black men in the international golf rankings that it is argued by
some that Woods is the exception that proves the rule.
If we were to examine the recently concluded Olympics from the
perspective of regional, economic and ethnic participation certain clear
The largest economies in the world such as the USA, China, Germany,
UK, Japan etc, save for India, are all within the first twenty top
performers at the Olympics. Among the first ten, seven would fall into
the rich category of nations.
The athletes from countries with large economies have repeatedly
proved their prowess in a wide range of events.
Obviously, these rich countries have the resources to undertake
large-scale training programmes, which bear fruit at these international
But what came first? It could also be argued that those in these
countries are possessed of the skills and energy required for building
large economies and by the way, also produce world-class athletes. Many
of these countries were in the forefront of the global explorations and
conquests, which began in the 15th century.
Among other things, conquests of that scale in those times required
tremendous physical abilities and stamina, leave alone mental strength.
Black men may not be able to do certain things but they certainly can
run. In the track and field events descendants of the more recent
migrations from that continent held sway. Whether now wearing the
colours of the USA, UK or Jamaica they ran like the swift winds of the
In the long distance events again the African runners proved to be
the world’s best when it comes to endurance and tactical running. The
athleticism of the Africans is a pride to the human race and an
assurance that we as a species are not slowly weakening and moving
Swimming at this Olympics had only one name, Phelps. Twenty three
year old Phelps had won six Gold Medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens
and now with the eight in China he has a career total of fourteen
Olympic Gold Medals.
The eight Gold Medals won this year makes him the first athlete to
have won eight Gold Medals at one Olympic game. When Michael Phelps sent
his medal filled bag through the metal detectors at the home state
airport of Baltimore Maryland they would have given a loud welcoming
It is always disappointing to observe how far behind stand the
competitors from lands with warm seas such as the Pacific and the Indian
Oceans in international swimming competitions. In Sri Lanka we have a
lot of water around us.
But funnily we “fear” the water. As a consequent the percentage of
those who can swim in this country is very small.
We were pleasantly surprised by the commendable performance of the
athletes from much-troubled Zimbabwe. Throwing their economic and
political troubles aside they bagged an impressive four Medals including
one Gold and three Silvers. The troubled Georgians who won six medals,
three Gold and three Bronze, gave a similarly brave performance. The
triumph of the human spirit is what Olympics is all about.
The performance of the countries in the Indian sub-continent was
lacklustre once again. Population wise these are big countries and are
not utterly without resources. For this region, India this year managed
one Gold and two Bronze, while Afghanistan won a Bronze.
It could well be that the general physical make up of the Indian
branch of the human family and dietary factors work against them in
athletic contests. We are more inclined towards contemplative postures
than actual physical exertions.
This is reflected even in the team compositions from this part of the
world where the advisers and coachers often outnumber the athletes. In
our country it also seems greater efforts go into contesting for posts
in sporting bodies than in actual competition.
We all know of the saying that those who can, do it, while those who
cannot, teach and perhaps administer.
As shown from the pride we take in the occasional successes of our
Cricket Team we would love to compete in other sports and if possible do
well. Looking at out performance thus far a cynic might ask, if white
men cannot jump can vegetarians run ? The answer awaits future Olympic