Miscegenation (1) & Combined events
What they have in common: Jim Thorpe, Daley Thompson, Dan O'Brien, Bryan Clay and Ashton Eaton?
Certainly they have been or are (Eaton is still competing) among the greatest talents that have ever been seen in the history of decathlon competitions.
But, in addition to the common effort in training and concentration in the big competitions, there is something else they have in common?
Before groped for an answer, let me summarize briefly (not counting medals of silver and bronze), what these five superb athletes achieved in the sport.
James (Jim) Thorpe triumphed in the first Olympic decathlon in 1912 in Stockholm, leaving the second (the strong Swedish Hugo Wieslander) to almost 700 points behind.
In the same Olympics he also won the title of the pentathlon, a competition that was played at the time, winning, as in the decathlon, almost all of the individual events. For the extraordinary global athletic superiority demonstrated, at the time of the award, King Gustav V of Sweden turned to Thorpe words that went down in history: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."
Leaving athletics, became, for many years, one of the greatest athletes of american football and baseball.
In 1950 the nation's press selected James Thorpe as the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the 20th Century and in 2000 he was World Soundtrack ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century.
Daley Thompson dominated the scene from the late 70s until well into the 80s of the last century.
In the years 76 -77 repeatedly improved the junior world record in the decathlon and won the gold medal at the European Junior Championships.
In 78, the first senior year, he won the Commonwealth Games, and three weeks later, played in the European Championships in Prague, winning the silver medal.
From this competition until the end of 1986 will remain unbeatable:
in 80 world record at Goetzis and, in the same year, winning the Moscow Olympics;
again in 82 world record at Goetzis, and in the same year, gold at the European Championships in Athens, with another new world record, and second gold at the Commonwealth Games;
in 83 gold at the World Championships in Helsinki;
in 84 second Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles with her fourth world record in the decathlon;
in 86 gold at the European Championships in Stuttgart and third gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Dan O'Brien instead dominated the scene in the 90s of the last century.
He managed to win the world title three times: in 91, 93 and 95.
In 92 set a new world record in the decathlon.
In 96 he won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics.
In 94 and 98 he won the Goodwill Games.
In 93 also became indoor heptathlon champion by scoring a world-record.
By adding the scores of all his personal records in each specialty of the decathlon, you get the total of 9572 points, which still has not been exceeded by any other decathlete.
It is known that a high stature is very useful in at least 4 of the 10 events of the decathlon: the High Jump and the three throws. So in the history of this sport it is hard to find samples of great decathletes that are less than 1.83-84 (cm).
Well, Bryan Clay despite his height less than 1.80, was able to win the world title in the decathlon in 2005, the Olympics in 2008 and, in the same year, the World Championship indoor of heptathlon.
In 2010 he won a second gold at the World Championship indoor of heptathlon, and managed to win the decathlon in Goetzis under atmospheric conditions so prohibitive (almost a continuous downpour), which only able to conclude that race was to be considered a tough test of survival…
Ashton Eaton, who at age 25 is still competing, has already improved three times the world record of the indoor heptathlon, winning also the World indoor title in 2012. That same year he improved the world record in the decathlon and won the Olympics in London.
And in 2013 he won the World decathlon in Moscow.
He holds the world record in the decathlon 100 meters and long jump of the decathlon, but also has excellent prospects for improving also the similar records in the 400 meters and 110 hurdles. According to several expert observers, Eaton can currently be considered the greatest talent ever seen in the combined events.
Well, let us now return to the original question: Thorpe, Thompson, O'Brien, Clay and Eaton, what they have in common?
My answer is that all five are the result of miscegenation (interracial marriages or sexual relations), in other words, they have (or have had) parents or grandparents belonging to different ethnic groups originating in different continents.
James Thorpe both Native American, but in his veins also Irish blood.
In fact, he was the son of Hiran P. Thorpe, of Irish and Sac-Fox Indian descent, and Charlotte View, of Potowatomi and Kickapoo descent.
Daley Thompson had a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father.
The birth parents of Dan O'Brien are African-American and Finnish.
Bryan Clay has a Japanese mother and an African-American father.
The father of Ashton Eaton is African-American and his mother is of European descent.
It can be assumed that miscegenation, this powerful “human hybrydization”, favors the birth of individuals globally more coordinated, more powerful, more agile, more resistant… more able to handle, even psychologically, different situations, and therefore particularly suitable for combined events? In my humble opinion, yes.
Sure you could argue that there were other legendary decathletes that were not the result of miscegenation, as Bob Mathias and Roman Sebrle, to name just two ...
But I do not want to come to the excess of my hypothesis, I'm not arguing that only those children of interracial marriage (or interracial sexual relations) can excel in the decathlon.
My guess, my hypothesis instead is that the different ethnic, racial origins of the parents/grandparents could provide an extra advantage to the development of multi-athlete.
In the history of the decathlon, the above-mentioned five super-decathletes together have won, until now (Eaton is still competing):
6 Olympic Games, 6 World Championships, 7 World records.
Moreover, it should be noted that the number of world championships won would be, most likely, greater if they had played at the time of Thorpe, and in the years 79, 81 and 85 (in which Thompson was in great shape).
I do not pretend to claim to be an expert in all sports, but it seems to me that in no other specialty of athletics, indeed in any other sport in general, have been produced so many hits by athletes children of miscegenation.
We must believe that there are mere coincidences?
Moreover, if we take a look at the world of women's combined events, how do you not talk about the phenomenon Jessica Ennis?
With a height of less than 1.65 cm (the same considerations for Bryan Clay apply here), was able to win the World (2009) and European (2010) Eptathlon championship, the Olympic Games in 2012, as well as the World Indoor pentathlon Championship (2010).
And how not to mention the new British star Katarina Johnson-Thompson who, after winning the World Junior in 2012, this year 2013 (the first senior), despite recovering from some injuries came fifth in the World in Moscow only 28 points from bronze medal?
Well, Jessica Ennis has an English mother's native Derbyshire and a Jamaican father; Katarina Johnson-Thompson has the mother of Liverpool and a Bahamian father.
So: Jim Thorpe, Daley Thompson, Dan O'Brien, Bryan Clay, Ashton Eaton, Jessica Ennis, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, all children of interracial marriage, always just coincidences?
Of course mine is only a hypothesis, there is no scientific evidence, at least for the moment.
Maybe I'll be a romantic, but I like to think that Nature (or, for believers, its Author), also through the history of combined events, has shown us that we, with love, must break down the barriers of nations, ethnic groups, races, cultures, and thus help to generate a humanity, not just overall healthier and more fit, but more able to accept diversity, and more able to deal with the various tests, the various events of that wonderful “decathlon” that is ... life.
Well, what do you think about my hypothesis regarding the “miscegenation & the combined events”?
Bruno life decathlete
(1) [From Wikipedia]: Miscegenation (from the Latin miscere "to mix" + genus "kind") is the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, and procreation