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The Last White 100 Meters Olympic Champion . . . and the Next?

1,416 words

Welles [1]

Allan Welles

The sprint events at the Olympics are dominated by runners of Western African origin, occasionally with small admixtures of White blood. This means that the events are usually won by Black American or Black Caribbean athletes, the most famous example being the great Jamaican runner Usain Bolt, who has now won both the 100m and 200m gold medals at the last three Olympics. This Black dominance gives the impression that White men can’t sprint, although this image was at least partly dented at Rio by the bronze medal won by the White French runner Christophe Lemaitre in 200m. 

The fact is that White men can do anything, including sprint events, but because Black men are less able to do so many other things, Whites are not overly encouraged to compete with them in those few areas where Blacks also excel. In a sense, certain sports have become de facto “safe spaces” for Black attainment. For this reason, there has been a tendency towards the “blackening” of these sports in recent decades, leading to a kind of sporting caste system. In modern multicultural Western states, like America and the UK, this serves as a means of high-profile racial inclusivism that has a distorting effect on the development of true merit and talent.

The case of Adam Gemeli, the UK sprinter that Lemaitre narrowly beat for the 200m, seems to indicate this. As an athlete of Persian and Moroccan descent, Gemeli is “near-White” and physically could pass as a Southern European. On the racial spectrum between Blacks and Whites, he is therefore relatively White in physical terms, while, in the context of British society, as a Muslim with a distinctly non-British appearance, he qualifies as an effective non-White.

Gemeli’s prominence in the UK sprint team therefore suggests two points: (1) that runners of effectively White physicality can compete in sprint events (a point made more eloquently by Lemaitre’s bronze), and (2) that being seen as non-White will enhance one’s chances of being developed as a sprinter in a multicultural Western state. A case could therefore be made that Gemeli is thus benefiting from the advantages of White physicality combined with non-White fast-tracking and support. The implication is that if Gemeli can do it (or almost do it) and if Lemaitre can do it, why isn’t the UK athletics establishment finding talented White British sprinters to do it as well?

The answer seems to be, because having non-Whites in prominent sporting positions serves the agenda of the modern multicultural state, with its problems of a unifying egalitarian ethic and a disuniting reality of unequal outcomes across a wide range of areas, both sporting and non-sporting. It is no coincidence that here in the UK we are currently being told yet again that Blacks face “entrenched racial inequality [2].”

But the propaganda that a success story like Bolt generates helps perpetuate the self-fulfilling prophecy that “White men can’t sprint.” Against such a legend, Whites therefore need to establish counter legends that remind young White athletes that, even in this most Black-dominated of sports, we can still compete. A promising subject for such a counter-mythos is the career of the last White 100m Olympic Champion, the Scotsman Allan Welles, who won the 100m gold and 200m silver at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

Originally trained as a jumper, Welles switched to sprinting in 1976, too late to make the Montreal Olympics of that year, but in plenty of time to qualify for Moscow, where he beat a field of four White and three non-White athletes to get gold in the 100m. In the final he narrowly beat the Black Cuban athlete Silvio Leonard in a photo finish and became the oldest 100m gold medalist at the age of 28. By the time of the 1984 Olympics, Welles was 32 and therefore too old to effectively defend his title. For comparison, Bolt is now bowing out of Olympic sprinting at the grand old age of 29.

Those touting Welles as a relatively recent example of the “great White sprinter” will always run into one difficultly — the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, prompted by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the year before. But this is mitigated by two factors. First, the gold and silver medals in the previous Olympics had been won by a Trinidadian and a Jamaican, with a Soviet athlete third. None of these countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Secondly, Welles answered critics who cited the US boycott as a factor in his victory in the most direct way possible, and in a way worthy of a true legend, in what became known as “The Koblenz Showdown.”

Just two weeks after winning gold, and while his body was still recovering from his exertions in Moscow, Welles agreed to take on the top American sprinters of the day at a meeting in the West German city of Koblenz. The challengers included the two fastest Americans Stanley Floyd and Mel Lattany, as well as a young Carl Lewis, all three of whom were Black. Welles was putting his recently won Olympic reputation — and that of White sprinters — on the line, despite the toll gaining that reputation had taken on his body. In some ways this was an apparently foolish decision.

Welles recalled the event in a 2004 article in the Daily Telegraph [3]:

To be honest, I should never have run because I was physically and mentally shattered. There were two heats in Koblenz and I only qualified for the final as eighth-slowest, or eighth-fastest depending on how you look at things. To this day, I still believe I didn’t make the final on merit; I reckon the organisers let me in only because I was the Olympic gold medallist. Before the final, I went round the back of the stadium with my wife, Margo, and lay down on a bench. After a few minutes, I noticed I was bouncing around all over the place and said to Margo, ‘Will you stop shaking the bench’. I lay back down again and the same thing happened; but when I looked up, Margo was standing to one side. I was the one doing the involuntary shaking because of the state I was in.

The main threat to Welles was Stanley Floyd, unbeaten in 100m for 18 months. The two had never raced before, but Wells, given his condition, was not optimistic.

Even during the warm-up, [Floyd] exuded arrogance — and a lot of people thought I was arrogant — but Floyd was full of himself, perhaps rightly so given his record. In my mind, I had no hope whatsoever of doing well but as I crossed the line he was two one-hundredths of a second behind — about eight inches — and I’d won the race. Floyd simply could not believe he’d been beaten and interrogated the chief timekeeper, the photo-finish official and the judges before accepting he was second. That race was something special to me; I’m convinced God was running for me — I’m a believer, though maybe not in the full sense of the words — and I still believe someone else was helping me; either God or the hopes of five million Scots.

The race finished with Welles winning in 10.19 — faster than his Olympic time of 10.25 — besting Floyd (10.21), Lattany (10.25), and Lewis (10.30). The Black athletes were suitably impressed.

To his credit, Lattany came straight over to me and said, ‘For what it’s worth, Allan, you’re the Olympic champion and you would have been the Olympic champion no matter who you ran against in Moscow. You deserve everything you’ve achieved this year’. And that possibly meant as much to me as my gold medal because nobody will ever appreciate how big a win that was for me. It didn’t matter what happened after that, I was the Olympic champion and I’d proved it in Koblenz.

The story of Allan Welles is not only a testament to White sporting talent and power in a sport where we are politely told to “step down” and allow a “safe space” to exist for Black sporting achievement, but also an epic tale in its own right, worthy of cinematic treatment.

My distant relative Eric Liddell is rightly famous for putting faith before Olympic glory and achieving both in the 1924 Olympic Games. He has an Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire celebrating his glory. The achievement of Allan Welles deserves similar acclaim. Only by celebrating our greatness will we achieve future greatness and see once again a White 100m Olympic champion. For the body to triumph the mind and the will must triumph first.