African world records hardly ever go unchallenged

Dylan Bettencourt

Africans often dominate track and field events but breaking a world record often leads to questions attempting to discredit their achievement.

Nigerian runner Tobi Amusan broke the 100m hurdles event not once but twice at the World Athletics Championships, earning her country their first ever medal at the event.

Despite her pure jubilation at writing her name in the history books, her record breaking time was immediately questioned.

And not just questioned by a viewer watching from home, it was challenged by possibly one of the best athletes to grace the track – Michael Johnson.

The American questioned how it is possible that the world record can be broken by 0.14 seconds as Amusan ran a time of 12.06 seconds in the final – the previous record stood at

12.20 seconds.

But Amusan’s final time did not stand given there was a tail wind that significantly boosted times across the board.

Therefore her time in the semi-final of 12.12 seconds stood as the new world record.

Johnson however felt all the times were too fast, claiming that even the runners were surprised with their times.

“I don’t believe 100m times are correct. World record broken by .08! 12 personal bests set. Five National records set. And Cindy Sember said after her PB and national record ‘I thought I was running slow!’ All athletes looked shocked,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Adding to the questions of how Amusan could have broken the world record other than talent and hard work, concerns over her shoes were raised.

Amusan chose to wear long-distance spikes rather than sprinting spikes as a foot injury meant the sprinting shoes were not comfortable.

“My abilities are not centred around spikes but I had plantar fasciitis at the beginning of the season so that set me back for a while,” the 25-year-old said.

“I spoke to Adidas and I asked if I could get spikes with a softer soles. They recommended a lot of stuff and I feel comfortable in that.”

But this is not the first time shoes have been used to undermine an African’s achievement.

Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon record by running the event in under two hours.

Immediately the shoes he wore to break the record were criticised as people felt the shoes gave him an unfair advantage as they had a “spring-mechanism.”

People also claimed he broke the record in “ideal conditions” on a flat course in Vienna.

Undermining Africans went as far as court battles as South African Caster Semenya could not have been as good as she is without a genetic advantage.

Semenya felt the wrath of dominance when she was forced to take testosterone suppressant medications to reduce her naturally high levels of testosterone.

The South African has been unsuccessfully fighting the ruling since 2019 that has affected other African runners in the process.

Namibian runners Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi were deemed to have high levels of testosterone after dominating the 200m event.

Africans often break national and world records but their achievements have to be questioned before they are celebrated.

Image source: @Olympics


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