Why Are Jamaican Athletes So Successful at Track Events?

Published 09/20/2021, 7:45 AM EDT
BEIJING – AUGUST 20: Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts after breaking the world record with a time of 19.30 to win the gold medal in the Men’s 200m Final ahead of Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles Brian Dzingai of Zimbabwe and Shawn Crawford of the United States at the National Stadium during Day 12 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 20, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)


If there’s one country that instantly clicks in fan’s minds in track and field events, it’s Jamaica. Over the years, the Caribbean country has produced some of the finest sprinters ranging from Elaine Thompson-Herah to Usain Bolt.

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While some attributed their success to dietary staples, a major inter-school event lies at the heart of their success. And it’s none other than ‘The Champs’, which binds the entire nation together in sheer excitement.

What is the tournament that Jamaicans refer to as ‘The Champs’?

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During an interaction with Firstpost in 2019, Yohan Blake, who often challenged Bolt, mentioned how his upbringing helped him in becoming a sprinter. He said, “I think the way I was brought up (helped me become successful). We were very, very poor.

“We had to work ourselves out of poverty. Education wasn’t the way to do it. It was just sports. So it was just natural. When we were young we would spend a lot of time outdoors, running with cars.”

However, Blake credited ‘The Champs’ for kickstarting his career. “”The Champs was where it all started,” said Blake. “The tournament where you became a man from a boy. It’s one of the biggest high school championships in the world.

“If you went there you would see runners of the calibre of Bolt, Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell, Elaine Thompson taking part. All these runners emerged from the Champs.”

The tournament bears the full name ‘Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships’, and is a high-school competition. On first glance, it might not seem like an event which gets a lot of attention since it’s conducted between high schools. However, the National Stadium in Kingston hosts nearly 30,000 people on all four days of the event.

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Usain Bolt got a scholarship in a popular school because of this tournament

In fact, several schools scouted the event along with thousands of Jamaicans to have the best sprinters represent them. One such school was William Knibb Memorial High School, who gave a scholarship to Bolt for his performances in this tournament.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts as he wins the Olympic mens 200m final in a new world record time in the Birds Nest stadium, Beijing on August 20th 2008 in Beijing, China (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images). An image from the book “In The Moment” published June 2012

Several Jamaican track and field stars term ‘The Champs’ as a crucial event in their careers. And with more budding track and field stars emerging from their country, expect this tournament to only become more popular every year.

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Sanket Nair

780 articles

Sanket Nair is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. A Sports Management graduate, he is a huge fan of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and hopes to see Red Bull break Mercedes' dominance and win the World Championship soon. Sanket has been hooked to the sport ever since he watched the battle for the 2010 World Championship go down to the wire at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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