Gina Lückenkemper had to watch the final over 100 meters off the track. The German top sprinter was eliminated in the semi-finals of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene with a decent time (11.08 seconds) in fourth place. Pretty sure she would only have seen the heels of the fastest in the final – as well as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s hair dyed blond-green. The 35-year-old woman from Jamaica narrowly won the race after a brilliant start in 10.67 seconds.

At the finish line, she raised her right hand and pointed her index finger up. At the same time, she turned to the right to make sure her sense of victory was justified. That was it, although her closest pursuer Shericka Jackson (10.73) almost snatched the gold medal from her in the final sprint. Elaine Thompson-Herah (10.82) in third was also not far from either. In the end, the three of them hugged and smiled, and the flag in the colors of Jamaica hung over the shoulders of the women.

“I don’t know how many setbacks I’ve had in my career and how many times I’ve come back,” Fraser-Pryce told reporters in attendance. “Anyway, I’m back.” In fact, few athletes in the history of the core Olympic sport have been as enduring as Eugene’s 100-meter world champion. When she gave birth to her son Zyon via emergency caesarean section in 2017, many expected the end of her career – and almost everyone expected that she would never get back to her best times. But Fraser-Pryce fought back. On Monday she won the title for the fifth time, the first one she won 14 (!) years ago at the World Championships in Berlin.

Once again, the fastest come from the Caribbean island state, which is home to around three million people. Usain Bolt is the best-known representative of his country. The world record holder over 100 and 200 meters outshone the multitude of outstanding sprinters from Jamaica.

Measured against the number of inhabitants, the successes seem incredible, which is why they have often been explained with suspected doping. It is true that doping controls in Jamaica have been lax for many years. But they were and are in many countries. Many an observer tried to associate Jamaica’s supposedly miraculous sprinters with their special genetic characteristics. An explanation that serves racist resentment – and which, moreover, can be quickly refuted.

So many ancestors of Jamaicans come from West Africa. West Africans are not well known for their sprinting skills. Otherwise the Brazilians, whose origins are also largely in West Africa, would have to win many medals in the sprint. But they don’t.

Neither supposed doping nor the alleged genetic disposition can be an explanation. There are other reasons why German runners and often everyone else is chasing after Jamaica. The main reason for the success is that Jamaica is a sprinting nation, which means that sprinting is the most popular sport along with football and cricket.

The sprint is institutionally firmly anchored in Jamaica. Schools carry out tough selection procedures even for young children. Every year at the end of March, the big duels among the high schools take place in Kingston over five days in front of 35,000 spectators, it is by far the largest sporting event in Jamaica. The kids don’t want to be tennis players or basketball players, they want to be sprinters. There are many role models, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Merlene Ottey and, and, and.

The soft spot for the sprint goes back to the colonizers. At the end of the 19th century, the British also anchored athletics in schools. Also, as sociology professor Orlando Patterson wrote in the New York Times, athletics was an important part of a health campaign in the 1920s. The mantra “healthy body – healthy mind” was lived. And running, or sprinting, as a sport that costs nothing, became the most popular physical exercise discipline. That is still the case today and was expressed once more at the finish of the women’s 100 meters on Monday in Eugene.