Kenyans Win Boston Marathon

Who and where we come from shapes who we are. Why do some nations produce such unbelievable strings of champions?

The men’s and women’s champions at the Boston Marathon today are both from the same country—Kenya. Kenya and its neighbor Ethiopia have won 27 of the last 30 Boston Marathons among the men (28 if you include an Ethiopian-born American). Kenya and Ethiopia have won 19 of the last 21 Boston Marathons among women. The results are not much different at the Olympics. These countries’ men have won 3 of the last 5 marathons, and their women have won the last 2 marathons.

Does their success come from national wealth? Not likely. The World Bank lists Kenya as having the 149th largest Gross Domestic Product out of 194 nations. Ethiopia ranks at 172 out of 194.

Other off-the-chart champion-producing nations are Jamaica and South Korea. Jamaican men and women have each won the 100-meter dash at each of the last three Olympics. That is double Jamaican gold in 2008, 2012 and in 2016.

South Korea has boasted great archers for several centuries. South Korean women have won 14 of the 15 gold medals in archery from 1984-2016. They have won all but 1 of the archery gold medals given over 36 years. South Korean men have dominated by winning gold medals in archery in each of the last 5 Olympics, 2000-2016).

What makes these nations’ athletes excel in these sports? Genetics, tradition, geography? Whatever the answer, who and where you come from shapes who we are.

About Ben Unseth

Migrant executive and professor.
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