According to the Daily Mail, the decorated sprinter stated, on a Channel 4 documentary entitled ‘Michael Johnson: Survival of the Fastest,’ that “it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations.” While acknowledging that he began his athletic career “through my own determination,” Johnson believes a “superior athletic gene” is that imprint.
It is a fact that track and field events have a disproportionate number of black athletes at the top of the sport. Current Olympic 100 meter champion, Usain Bolt, was born in Jamaica, and the eight finalists from 2008 are all likely to have slaves as ancestors: three Jamaicans, two from Trinidad & Tobago, two black Americans, and one from the island of Curacao, part of the Dutch Caribbean.
The Daily Mail reports that some scientists believe and are currently researching this theory—specifically that selective breeding and collection by owners and harsh living conditions created a group of human beings naturally inclined toward high, even record-shattering athletic prowess.
Johnson, who won a total of four Olympic gold medals and eight world championships prior to his retirement, had a DNA test for the documentary. It confirmed the athlete, who was born in Dallas, Texas, is of West African descent.