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The Human Race: Lifecycle Of An Athlete

In the second of four special Health Check programmes on the Lifecycle of an Athlete, Claudia Hammond reports from the sprint capital of the world, Jamaica.

Claudia Hammond reports from the sprint capital of the world, Jamaica, for the second of four special Health Check programmes on the lifecycle of an athlete.

In "From Promise to the Podium", she investigates how this tiny island, of fewer than three million people, so consistently turns out world class track athletes.

At the first race meet of the season, at the National Stadium in Kingston, she watches hundreds of school children from the country's high schools competing at the Camperdown Classic, and then holds her breath with the rest of the crowd, as the world's youngest-ever 100m World Champion, Yohan Blake, runs a personal best in the 400 metres.

Jamaican sprint training has come home, and most of the elite athletes now choose to stay on the island with the top coaches at Racers and MVP clubs, instead of moving abroad.

At an early morning training session at MVP at Utech in Kingston, the man who set up MVP - Maximising Velocity and Power - eleven years ago, Stephen Francis discusses his determination to keep Jamaican athletes on home turf.

And he admits he picked the incredible former world 100 metre champion Asafa Powell, because he wasn't performing well, and the Americans wouldn't want him!

Asafa himself, training hard for the upcoming London Olympics, talks to Claudia about staying in Jamaica to train, but also acknowledges the sacrifices of the modern athlete when they're running for gold. Losing girlfriends, he says, is one of the downsides…

Just how Jamaica converts, so successfully, raw talent into Olympic medallists is the million dollar question, and Claudia investigates some of the more whacky theories on the circuit, one of them being that the island's success is down to the yam!

(Image: Usain Bolt celebrates winning the Mens 100m Final at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Credit: Associated Press)

Available now

28 minutes


  • The Camperdown Classic at Kingston’s National Stadium

    Racers, fans and commentators on why Jamaicans are staying at home to train

    Duration: 07:53

  • Maximising Velocity and Power, MVP, in Kingston

    Meeting former 100 metre world champion, Asafa Powell, and MVP top coach, Stephen Francis

    Duration: 08:45

  • Dr Aggrey Irons on Psychology and Jamaica’s Athletes

    Dr Aggrey Irons on why “attitude” matters to Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake

    Duration: 04:06

  • What Scientists say about Jamaica’s Sprinting Success

    Dr Rachel Irving on scientific theories that seek to explain why Jamaicans are so fast

    Duration: 05:45