What will it take for U.S. runners to become more competitive with the East Africans? If we're talking distance running (not middle distance running as the original poster posited), then the answer is that we need to allow more athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc. to become American citizens. It's no coincidence that our AR holder at the 10k is Meb, or that Abdi is one of the top American distance runners. And it's not because they are "tougher" through circumcision rituals or some other rite of passage. It is because they have immense natural gifts and a dedicated work ethic. The posters who talk about a bigger talent pool in East Africa than we have here in the U.S. are correct. If we scientifically screened all 280 million Americans, it is unlikely that we would come up with a pool of talent to match what would be found in Kenya alone.
What sport do you think they are
>going into? Football? Basketball? Guys who are
>built for distance running don't have that many
Yeah, they do have lots of options at the high school level. Lots of potential distance runners play HS football, basketball and baseball -- they're generally only good enough to play at that level and quit competitive sports when they graduate. Check out your basic small high school's roster, and you will see lots of guys listed at 5'9"/140 lbs; endurance training can easily make them the 5'9"/125 lbs necessary for high-quality distance running. For example, Alan Webb had the speed and physique necessary to start at cornerback & WR for an mediocre small-town team; I'm willing to bet there are dozens more like him (smart, fast, hard-working and tough with good endurance) going through two-a-days right now.
No, the pros at other sports can't be great distance runners. The guys the USA misses never even try distance running -- and it's not that they're afraid of hard work, but rather than they want some prestige for their efforts. Talking a 16-year-old boy into cross country is no easy mark, pal, especially if he's got any chance of playing regularly on even an awful football or basketball team. Prestige is terribly important to teenagers, and they definitely notice that the hottest chicks in the school cheer on the sidelines for some sports and not others.
>If we scientifically screened all 280 million
>Americans, it is unlikely that we would come up
>with a pool of talent to match what would be
>found in Kenya alone.
Hey, they KENYANS aren't any better than the rest of the world, if you eliminate the Kalenjin. It's one tribe within the broader nation that dominates everything. They're only good at one sport -- distance running.
But we arrogant Americans assume that we should dominate the world in EVERY sport. We're the best at baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf, sprints/hurdles/jumps, NASCAR, figure skating, swimming, triathlon; the soccer people talk about winning the World Cup (and already dominate the women's side). We're #2 at ice hockey, and we sponsor the best team and individual in pro cycling. So we assume we should specialize in everything, which is simply not possible. Why should we have any chance against societies that put everything into just one sport?
But we arrogant Americans
>assume that we should dominate the world in EVERY
>sport. We're the best at baseball, basketball,
>football, tennis, golf, sprints/hurdles/jumps,
>NASCAR, figure skating, swimming, triathlon; the
>soccer people talk about winning the World Cup
>(and already dominate the women's side). We're
>#2 at ice hockey, and we sponsor the best team
>and individual in pro cycling. So we assume we
>should specialize in everything, which is simply
>not possible. Why should we have any chance
>against societies that put everything into just
Arrogant Americans? Maybe, but for good reason as you stated above. I would prefer to think of it as "high expectations". It is difficult for Americans to be the best in every sport but our expectations are bringing us pretty close.
Distance running is a bit of an exception to the rule of most American sports where hard work, team play and the classically physically dominant athlete (American stereotype - stong and fast) win out. As stated above we don't have the numbers the East African countries have of the physically "ideal" distance runner.
However, I do think we should be able to have more milers at the Elite level as larger stature athletes can succeed at this distance (John Walker, Steve Scott, Ovett etc.).