August 17, 2009

First full-blooded East Asian to win a major golf championship

For the first time, Tiger Woods (who is a quarter Chinese and a quarter Thai) failed to win one of golf's four major championships after leading after three rounds. He was beaten by 37-year-old Y.E. Yang of South Korea, the first full-blooded Asian winner of a major championship.

It's rather odd that it took so long for an East Asian to win a major championship, because East Asians were runner-ups in 1971, 1980, and 1985 (when T.C. Chen needed to hole a bunker shot on the 72 hole in the U.S. Open to force a playoff -- I was standing behind him at Oakland Hills in Michigan and couldn't see the hole, but could hear the thonk as the ball struck the flagstick, then saw Chen whirl around in regret as it rolled away from the hole). Looking at that trendline for second place finishes, you'd figure there would have been an Asian winner around 1989, but instead it took 20 years longer.

In contrast, Continental Europeans emerged as contenders in this Anglosphere-dominated game at about the same time, yet quickly broke through as champions.

South Korean women, like Swedish women, have done very well in ladies' golf, but that's mostly because those two countries invested a lot in training girl golfers.

So far, there's no particular pattern of any race being better or worse at golf. Success largely depends upon starting intensive practice at a young age. Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at anything, but to win a major championship in golf typically takes about 20,000 hours. For example, it took Tiger Woods 19 years of playing and Phil Mickelson 32 years. The shortest period between taking up the game and winning a major was Gary Player's seven years.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

57 comments:

Simon said...

One would tend to expect that 20,000 hours of practice as a prime criteria of success would favour north-east-Asians over other races. Although I do get the impression that they often don't handle moments of high stress very well, which could cause more frequent fluffed shots at critical points. Tiger may have inherited a useful suite of characteristics from his varied ancestry.

Chuck said...

interesting concept re: 10,000 hours versus 20,000.

it goes without saying that diminishing marginal returns are at play if it takes 10,000 hours to be really, really good at something, and an *extra* 10,000 to be really, really, really good.

are there any studies on the marginal percentile effects on those extra hours? just curious.

RWF said...

"Success largely depends upon starting intensive practice at a young age. "

Yang only took up the game when he was 19, and then immediately had to stop for a couple of years in order to complete his national service.

David said...

Tiger tales have it that he has a very bad temper, throws clubs, curses, threatens audience members, refuses to sign autographs, etc. Kind of a Happy Gilmore only not so happy. He is treated by sponsors and media as a man-God who can do no wrong; is this affecting him?

Anonymous said...

I read YE Yang started golfing at 19.

Anonymous said...

TC Chen. Yes, one of the few people to have a golf shot named after him. A few weeks later that summer he came to the Noyac club on Long Island for a pro-Am. My friend Sonny Kleinfield and I were walking around with him, and persuaded him to cut the dog leg on the par 4 11th, a high 270 yard shot over trees and marsh that regular club players and pros couldn't carry off in those days. The whole otherwise is a three iron and wedge, so it's not high percentage play to try to cut the corner. Chen readily agreed, faded his drive into a greenside bunker, up and down for birdie.

Shawn said...

Even temperaments are an asset in golf, and it seems to me that they are found more commonly amongst Asians, less among Whites, and less yet amongst Blacks.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Yang did not start golf until he was 19, than had a 1 and a half year interuption doing military service, and then amazingly enough, rookie of the year in his early twenties.

albertosaurus said...

I don't think it means much. Looks like noise not signal to me.

If it means anything at all it probqably means that asians are misunderstood by westerners. Golf is popular with the Japanese and we think of golf as a sport that favors control of one's emotions. We westerners tend to think of the Jaapanese and CXhinese as inscrutable and reserved. So you might think that orientals would have advantages from their somber temprament.

Consider the movies "Seven Samourai" and the "Magnificent Seven". One of the biggest differences between the two is that the seven wariors in one are always grim and guarded while the other set of warriors are always smiling and light hearted. Tell most westerners this fact and they will tend to remember the original Japanese as the dour and serious ones. But that's wrong - the Japanese are jolly, it's the cowboys who are guarded and grim.

Anonymous said...

You could see by Yang's swing in round 3--which had that effortless, economy-of-movement quality which translates into accurate shots--that he had a good chance to win. Vijah Singh had the same sort of thing going on when he won the masters and just dropped shot after shot on the green near the flagstick. Yang probably would have been like 6 to 1 to win with Tiger's history of closing the majors, in spite of the -5 round 3.

Anonymous said...

Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at anything, but to win a major championship in golf typically takes about 20,000 hours.

He'd know, right?

Anonymous said...

Didn't I hear the PGA TV commentators say that Yang didn't start to play golf until he was 19 years old? An "outlier" all right.

dearieme said...

"the first full-blooded Asian winner of a major championship": I take it then that that Indian bloke from Fiji hasn't won a major?

Mr Lomez said...

What makes Yang of particular interest is that he didn't pick up a golf club until he was 19. And even then he didn't have a coach until a few years later. It makes you wonder just how phenomenally gifted this guy is.

Also, beyond the trendlines you look at in the post, it seems VERY odd that more East Asians, and Koreans in particular, wouldn't do better on the tour.

1) Golf is a part of their culture.

2) Golf is primarily a sport for 2nd tier athletes (compared to football/soccer/basketball), so they don't have to compete against West Africans and the small % of elite Europeans who would dominate them in the more strength/speed/height specific sports.

3) If, as you suggest, success at golf is largely a function of intensive propaedeutic training, the Korean hagwon culture would seem an ideal environment to master the game of golf. This applies to the rest of East Asia as well, albeit to a slightly lesser degree.

4) Golf is comparatively cerebral. Good decision-making and level-headedness are key components of successful golf. This should be another slight advantage for East Asians.

Perhaps I'm overlooking something obvious...?

Steve Sailer said...

Larry Nelson took up golf after getting out of the Army at 21, and won major championships at 33, 35, and 39.

Pat Casey said...

Steve recently had an interesting article over at takimag about Tiger's strength-training and the likelihood that he's using steriods. FYI, TigerWoods.com has his daily workout regimen, which has gotta be as intense as any football, basketball, or baseball players daily grind.

Edward said...

Do you think Tiger's new bulk has affected his game?

Sideways said...


Perhaps I'm overlooking something obvious...?


The amount of time they spend studying in the first 25 years of their lives could be crippling.

Chuck said...

No way Tiger is taking steroids. He benches about 300 pounds which isn't a crazy number.

Steroids would make him too bulky which isn't conducive to a good golf swing. Tiger isn't the strongest (swing power-wise) player out on the Tour anyway. His strength comes in his physical and mental stamina. The past two weeks you saw Padraig Harrington's legs give out on Sunday; this is from fatigue from playing on long golf courses. Tiger's mental stamina - at least up until this week - has been his competitive advantage.

Anonymous said...

"Tiger tales have it that he has a very bad temper, throws clubs, curses, threatens audience members, refuses to sign autographs, etc. Kind of a Happy Gilmore only not so happy. He is treated by sponsors and media as a man-God who can do no wrong; is this affecting him?"

I've seen him throw one of these temper tantrums after playing poorly in a match in the UK. Not pretty. Also, his body guards are jerks - threatening people for trying to take pictures when he's walking between holes (which the ticket expressly permitted) and pushing little old grannies out of the way in Tesco because their boss was in a hurry.

"No way Tiger is taking steroids."

Chuck, steroids don't make you huge unless do heavy-low rep training to maximize bulk. They basically allow you to work out more intensely and you get a greater result in whatever direction your training for. Go to Tiger's site and see how he lifts. He even says he does it for endurance. 3 hours of intense lifting a day is definitely a red flag for steroid use. Also, just to show you can use roids without being jacked, check out these articles about John McEnroe, who nobody would confuse with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=1708055

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,266155,00.html

One thing about Tiger I wonder is how much longer he will last. He keeps having to have surgery on the same knee, which isn't a good thing. You can only keep going into a joint so many times. Also, with such an over the top workout regimine, I can see his body breaking down earlier than for a normal golfer who hasn't subjected himself to the overuse of a program on par with a pro football or baseball player.

Anonymous said...

Given their high visuo-spatial skills, one would expect East Asians to be very good at golf. Like Simon said, however, I've also (anecdotally) noted that they have a tendency to crack under pressure (they also rate lowest on self-esteem inventories).

"2) Golf is primarily a sport for 2nd tier athletes (compared to football/soccer/basketball), so they don't have to compete against West Africans and the small % of elite Europeans who would dominate them in the more strength/speed/height specific sports."

From my own personal experience, I haven't really noticed East Asians being deficient to whites in many categories of athleticism (South Asians are another story, they're terrible athletes). There is the size gap you note, but they're not slow and at least as strong for their size (look at Olympic weightlifting). Check out the top-100m times all time. The record for both whites and Asians is 10.00s and the Nation of Japan appears to be about as good at sprinting as the entire white race. My own experience from highschool track and football is that if anything, Asians are probably faster, quicker, and more explosive than whites on average. This tends not to get noticed because blacks dominate all the speed events/positions, whereas larger whites have a large presence in the throws and line positions where most asians are simply too small. In a country without blacks, however, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of East Asian halfbacks and defensive backs doing well in football.

Anonymous said...

TC Chen- The TC stands for two chips... he was in the lead at the 85 Open at Oakland Hills and was in the rough on 17- he chipped out but flubbed it and hit it again - not good, stroke penalty, game over- good night now. he also had the only albatroos in open history that same week a 2 on a par 5

Dan in DC

Steve Sailer said...

Chen was running away with the 1985 U.S. Open when he landed in deep rough next to the seventh green. His chip shot popped straight up in the air and his clubhead hit it again during his follow through for a penalty. He wound up making a quadruple bogey, which he followed up with two or three more bogeys in a row. After that epic collapse, he rallied on the back nine and would have forced a playoff if his sand shot that hit the pin on 18 had dropped in instead of bouncing away.

Steve Sailer said...

There's a well-documented case that Japanese athletes tend to fold under the intense media pressure of representing the Japanese race in international competitions. Japanese performance in the Olympics from 1988 through 2000 was awful, although they've done better since then.

I don't know if that applies to other East Asians.

TH said...

Speaking of sports and race, didn't you promise to write something about track&field and HBD a while ago, Steve? With Usain Bolt's recent exploits, I think it's good time to make good on that promise.

Anonymous said...

South Korean Yu-Na Kim is the 2009 World Figure Skating Champion, that country's first competitor to win. She's 19.

Anonymous said...

It's very possible that most of the size differential between E. Asians and whites is going to go away. The average Japanese teen male is only an inch or two shorter than his American counterpart, and bigger than the typical European soldier in WWII. There's good evidence that it takes several generations of good nutrition for a population to reach its size potential.

Reactionary said...

Yang's win seems to be inspiring a lot of racial pride.

Everyone remember when the AP wrote so glowingly about it back when an Anglo-Saxon did the same thing?

therooted said...

"My own experience from highschool track and football is that if anything, Asians are probably faster, quicker, and more explosive than whites on average."

I'm Asian, and I have to say that I disagree with you here. I don't think we're terrible athletes, but I wouldn't say we're faster, quicker, and more explosive than whites. A lot of Asians have pretty good quickness, but I think this is due more to good coordination than raw muscle speed and quickness. And you're right to notice Japan's decent relative strength in sprinting. But I think a lot of the strong performances we see are due largely to strong coordination coupled with rigorous and intense discipline/training. The Japanese have some very novel an intense training methods they came up with like the Tabata protocol. I've heard similar things about Koreans re training.

Svigor said...

it seems VERY odd that more East Asians, and Koreans in particular, wouldn't do better on the tour.

5) More than a billion people in China alone. As SES improves, they'll inevitably take over the sport if they're close enough as a race in terms of genetics.

Anonymous said...

Golf also has Vijay Singh - the only Indian origin athlete in the world of international stature outside of cricket

Steve Sailer said...

"Speaking of sports and race, didn't you promise to write something about track&field and HBD a while ago, Steve? With Usain Bolt's recent exploits, I think it's good time to make good on that promise."

Writing more about track & field was a threat, not a promise.

Anonymous said...

It is funny to hear about a group of Americans talk about a region they knew so little.
The most important reason why there aren't as many East Asian golfers except from Korea is due to a lack of golf courses in East Asian. In US, Australia, South Africa, one can play a round of golf in public course without breaking their bank. However, playing golf in Asia means totally different thing in Asia. There are practically no public courses, and membership of private course can only be afforded only by the richest of rich, who hardly have the incentives to be a pro-golfer. There you have it. The people that most likely to become pro-athletics are from lower to middle class, unlike their American counterparts, they don’t have a chance to play the game to find out if they are any good at it. Based on Korean players’ results, I would guess East Asians are pretty good at it if they are willing to put in the hours.

Balmer said...

"It is funny to hear about a group of Americans talk about a region they knew so little.
The most important reason why there aren't as many East Asian golfers except from Korea is due to a lack of golf courses in East Asian [sic]."

Well we don't all dismiss this point. It surely is an important factor that needs to be considered, but it's hardly the most interesting one. Especially on a blog that focuses on HBD issues. Latin America has been very successful at producing top Major League Baseball players, and it's well established that the baseball fields are very substandard in Latin America compared to in the US, and many young Latin American ballplayers learning and developing the game often go without all the necessary equipment.

Anonymous said...

Well we don't all dismiss this point. It surely is an important factor that needs to be considered, but it's hardly the most interesting one. Especially on a blog that focuses on HBD issues.

Attributing to race what can realistically be attributed to other factors (e.g., Chinese aren't good at golf because golf courses are rare and inaccessible, or because they simply don't care about this particular game) doesn't exactly make the HBD community look good, does it?

Latin America has been very successful at producing top Major League Baseball players, and it's well established that the baseball fields are very substandard

Substandard vs. nonexistent, two different things obviously.

Anonymous said...

a well-documented case that Japanese athletes tend to fold under the intense media pressure... Japanese performance in the Olympics from 1988 through 2000 was awful, although they've done better since then.

1988-2000 roughly overlaps with the assest bubble that popped in 1990. Japan went from a sense of overblown egotism into a long national crises of confidence.

The anxieties that build toward the end of unsustainable bubbles may somewhat explain the 1-2yrs early onset. Alternatively, perhaps living off massive unearned wealth makes a homogeneous nationalistic country like Japan complacent and less competitive in athletics.

Anonymous said...

Balmer

Latin America has been very successful at producing top Major League Baseball players, and it's well established that the baseball fields are very substandard in Latin America

The key difference is that in LA kids can still learn and practice baseball as much as their interests and talents take them.

In most of NE Asia, the vast majority of kids don't have the chance to ever learn or practice golf - even on substandard courses. In Japan there are golf fanatics who can only afford to occassionally go to a driving range and have never been on a course proper.

Anonymous said...

Comparing baseball with golf is laughable. Hitting a baseball depend solely on hand-eye coordination. You only need a stick and a ball (or any trash to throw around) to train for it. Fielding only needs a ball and a glove. The amount of money needed to play is not substantial, similar to playing soccer or basketball. After a person was discovered to have some talent in it, they will be trained by professional for free as many teams try to sign them up ASAP.
On the other hand, can you practice hitting a golf ball for two-three hundred yards at your backyard, how to approach the green, how to putt and read the grass, and a major sponsor pay for your training after you show some talent in your high school golf team? I don't think so.
Golf needs far more coaching/practice/experience than any sports for that matter as one course is different from the others. You need to spend a huge chunk of money right from the start if you really want your kids to be good at it. Equipments, coaching, and traveling are all expensive, even in US. Now imagine that in Asian countries that golf membership cost millions of dollars, it is not hard to conclude that their average Asian kids are not going to be exposed to golf at all.
If Mozart didn't have the chance to touch a piano until he is twenty, would he become the Mozart we know? Early exposure is critical to genius development/discovery.

America/Australia/South Africa have the environment (cheap public course), Asia don’t.

Anonymous said...

“I'm Asian, and I have to say that I disagree with you here. I don't think we're terrible athletes, but I wouldn't say we're faster, quicker, and more explosive than whites. A lot of Asians have pretty good quickness, but I think this is due more to good coordination than raw muscle speed and quickness.”

I don’t know. I used to work out with three Asian Americans while in college and law school (one Chinese, one, Filipino, and one Chinese-Japanese) and was impressed at how strong they were for their size compared to most the white kids in school. In high school track, I also noted that even though Asian competitors seemed to do better than whites in the sprints and jumps relative to their numbers – we had both whites and Asians that were very competitive, but there were a hell of a lot more whites in the school and on the team. (Granted, this are only an anecdotal observations.) My best description of my impression of Asian athletes would be that they’re “good little athletes.” Obviously, if you want to play line in football or be a shot-putter, this is a problem, but if you want to play RB or track or baseball, not so much. On the other hand, the frequency of the version of the A-3-Actinin (wimp) gene that reduces explosiveness is more common in Asians than whites (and more common in whites than blacks), which would tend to undermine my argument, but hey, it’s just one gene and I’m sure explosiveness evolves the interaction of many genes.

Also note that again, the only non-black in the men's 100m semi-finals at the world track and field championships was Asian.

Anonymous said...

“It's very possible that most of the size differential between E. Asians and whites is going to go away. The average Japanese teen male is only an inch or two shorter than his American counterpart, and bigger than the typical European soldier in WWII.”

That’s BS. Non-Hispanic White American males are about 179cm. (Most other European countries’ secular trends have also come to a halt. Here are some Averages from recent studies (Conscripts or National Health Surveys) – 186: Dinaric Alps; 184: Holland; 181: Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania; 180: Norway, Germany, Czech Republic; 179: Belgium, Luxembourg; Poland; 178: UK, Austria, Switzerland, Greece; 177: Ireland, France, Northern Italy; 176: Spain; 174: Southern Italy; 173: Portugal) Young Japanese adult males have been stagnant at about 171.5 or 172 cm since the early 1980s. (FWIW, the average white US soldier in WWII was 174cm) There’s no convergence any more. In Hong Kong and Singapore, height is also stagnant at around 171 or 172cm. Koreans may or may not have stopped getting bigger and currently average around 174 or 175cm. Urban well off Chinese young men range between 170 and 175cm depending on the region. (Don’t listen to any article based on John Komlos’ work, just go to websites of the respective national statistical agencies to find out how tall people are). An S.D. is around 6.5 cm, so a 7cm difference is significant. Also, Asians have a lighter bone structure/smaller frame and tend to weight less at any given height (as demonstrated by different BMI guidelines for judging obesity in Asians).

Balmer said...

"In most of NE Asia, the vast majority of kids don't have the chance to ever learn or practice golf - even on substandard courses. In Japan there are golf fanatics who can only afford to occassionally go to a driving range and have never been on a course proper."

You're exaggerating the difference. The majority of kids in the US don't have the chance to learn and practice golf on a non-trivial level. Proportionally speaking, it's not that different. South Korea seems to have relatively decent access for its size. There's even a giant driving range in the middle of downtown Seoul.

"The key difference is that in LA kids can still learn and practice baseball as much as their interests and talents take them."

Right. The point is that there isn't a well developed and high quality field and equipment infrastructure. It's very substandard compared to the US. Yet the kids still do well, and many of them make it to the Majors and succeed. I don't know what it's like in Japan, but in South Korea at least kids have very focused and often specialized lives. They're almost constantly engaged in intense regular schooling accompanied by heavy after school tutoring that takes up almost all their free time. And extra curricular activities are often selected or at least strongly influenced by parents who wish their children to have financial success (or at least help them get into a good college) as a pianist, swimmer, violinist, tennis player, etc., and they specialize and undergo heavy training starting at a young age. It's not necessarily so much a matter of kids following where their interests and talents take them, relative to the US and other places.

Balmer said...

"America/Australia/South Africa have the environment (cheap public course), Asia don’t."

Nobody denies that this is a factor. But it's a single factor among many others. And it's far from clear that it's the most important one. You can flood every bodega in town with Magnums, but it's not going to make the men in that town fulfill their potential so to speak.

Anonymous said...

"the only non-black in the men's 100m semi-finals at the world track and field championships was Asian."

That may have something to do with the fact that Asian countries don't give their slots to blacks.

Anonymous said...

If the avg. Japanese male teen is 172 cm, then adding 2 inches would make him 177 cm, or about the same as his counterpart in the US. Japanese/Asian children still consume less protein and milk than westerners. 172 cm about the same as the average German solder in WWII. Americans (174cm) were taller than their European counterparts at that time.


"That may have something to do with the fact that Asian countries don't give their slots to blacks."

Not really. Look at NCAA or US Nationals times for white sprinters and you'll see there are very few (none?) that could have made the World semis.

A 10.25 white sprinter could have a good NCAA career, blacks or no blacks. Why aren't there any?

Argent Paladin said...

One possible reason for the perception that asians are good athletes compared to whites could be self-selection bias. Whites play high school sports in general because3 they enjoy it, or its family tradition or part of the culture. Asian-americans don't. They play to balance their college apps. So only those who have potential play. They don't want to ride the bench. If they suck, they will play the oboe instead.
As for the absence of whites in the national championships, it could be displacement by blacks. The same explanation would hold for college and high school. Fast whites are encouraged to do cross-country or lacrosse. Fast blacks are encouraged to do sprinting or football.

michael farris said...

"South Korean Yu-Na Kim is the 2009 World Figure Skating Champion, that country's first competitor to win. She's 19."

At present female figure skating is pretty dominated by Northeastern Asian competitors. Some skate for Asian countries (like Kim) but a pretty high percentage of top North American competitors are of Asian origin with names like Zhang, Nagasu as well. The last couple of world championships have required heavy rigging by the judges to keep a white competitor among the medalists.

The men haven't been as dominant but are making big progress (and IINM the current Canadian champion's last name is Chan).

Anonymous said...

Paladin,

If you have 10.25 potential there isn't a high school in the world that wouldn't want you on their sprint team, regardless of color.

Just face it, there are very few (non-doped) whites in that category, but Japan sends a few each year to the Worlds.

If you look at the results in Berlin this year, you can see that Japan does about as well in the men's 100m and 200m as the *entire white world combined*!

http://berlin.iaaf.org/index.html

n/a said...

"Just face it, there are very few (non-doped) whites in that category, but Japan sends a few each year to the Worlds."

Bizarre statement.

(1) It's safe to assume every top-level sprinter today uses or has used PEDs.

(2) Europeans probably have have the most honest/effective anti-doping regimes.

(3) "Athletes with East Asian ethnic backgrounds can use significant amounts of the anabolic steroid testosterone while avoiding detection by current doping protocols [. . .] A certain type of genetic variation called the UGT2B17 homozygous deletion/deletion genotype gives steroid tested athletes of Asian ethnicity a huge advantage over athletes lacking the genetic variation. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of athletes with UGT2B17 homozygous deletion/deletion genotype can take at least 500 mg of testosterone enanthate and still maintain a 4:1 T:E ratio. Athletes of Asian ethnic backgrounds are most likely to possess the “doping friendly” genotype." (source)

Note that Africans also have higher frequencies of the "doping-friendly" allele than whites.

Anonymous said...

n/a:

Sure, your hypothesis is that the Japanese are fast because their genetics makes it easy for them to dope.

It might be true, but I don't think it's the most likely explanation. Also, the Japanese sprinters tend to be very slight of build -- they don't look doped to me.

But when it comes to the B/W difference in sprinting, is that due to doping or not?

The reason I qualified my earlier comment with "non-doped" is to eliminate those hordes of horrendously doped eastern-bloc athletes from earlier eras.

n/a said...

My hypothesis is that all elite sprinters dope. It's a fact that a large fraction of East Asians can get away with much heavier doping leading up to testing/competition.

It's also a fact that the Steve Sailer Visual Method is not a valid way to determine if an athlete is clean or not.

Blacks would probably have an advantage in short sprints with or without doping, but the difference is exaggerated by drug use (and better coaching) at the elite level (where, in the West, most slots are monopolized by blacks). As for the genetic variant mentioned above, I believe several times more blacks than whites are homozygous for the "doper-friendly" version, but in absolute terms this genotype is rare in non-Asians: something like 1% for whites, 4% for blacks (though the press release I linked above gives a frequency for "Brazilian mulattoes" similar to that I've seen for Asians -- this may or may not be an error), and 64% for Asians. I doubt this variant explains much of the black-white difference in elite level sprinting competitiveness, but it is interesting that blacks began to dominate sprinting around the same time steroids came into widespread use.

The mythical period when roided-to-the-gills Eastern Bloc athletes enjoyed a huge illicit advantage over pure, innocent Americans never happened (especially if we're talking about males). The GDR used drugs comparable to or less effective than those already available in the U.S.

Oral-Turinabol, the androgenic-anabolic steroid produced by the state-owned pharmaceutical company, VEB Jenapharm (Jena, Thuringia, GDR), was the compound most frequently used.

This steroid, a chlor-substituted version of methandrostenolone, had been introduced for clinical use in 1965 (49); by 1966, it was already being abused and administered to male athletes in the GDR sports system to enhance muscle strength, aggressiveness, and performance. At that time, androgenic steroids were already in widespread use among athletes proficient in muscle strength-dependent events in many countries, notably the US (see, e.g., refs. (1)(2)(50)(51)(52)(53)(54)(55)).
[Hormonal doping and androgenization of athletes: a secret program of the German Democratic Republic government ]

Government bureaucracy or the number of employees involved in the GDR's doping program did not magically make their drugs more efficacious. Google if you're interested in current internet opinion on the relative effectiveness of Turinabol (widely used in the GDR) and Dianabol (widely used in the U.S. starting in the 1960s).

Anonymous said...

"If the avg. Japanese male teen is 172 cm, then adding 2 inches would make him 177 cm, or about the same as his counterpart in the US."

Um no, 172cm is for young adults, not teens and the Japanese are about 7cm shorter than US whites (nearly 3 inches) and the gap hasn't closed any since the early-mid 80s.

"Japanese/Asian children still consume less protein and milk than westerners."

Over 90% are lactose intolerant. They can't digest milk. That's a genetic difference - causes don't always have to be direct. I'd wager that some of the black-white difference in infant mortality rates comes from the fact that white mothers carry their pregnancy to term about 2 weeks earlier than whites on average.

"172 cm about the same as the average German solder in WWII. Americans (174cm) were taller than their European counterparts at that time."

To compare the health care and nutrition of Germans growing up in the early 20th century, particularly in the aftermath of WWI, to modern Japanese is silly. The later are much better off. Hell, in the a study by Richard Steckel (Ohio State) found that Europeans in the N. Europeans in the Dark Ages averaged 173.4cm. The Japanese don't reach that living in one of the world's most affluent countries.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, given Japan's success in the short sprints (100m, they don't seem to do as well as whites in the 200m and 400m - perhaps it's the short legs), China, with it's state run, communist bloc style sports program has had meager success (they've only produced one great hurdler, which is the most technical of the sprints). Since the Japanese have significant Jomon/Ainu ancestry, perhaps it's not a Mongoloid thing at all, but Australoid ancestry that makes them good 100m sprinters. (See Olsen's book, "Mapping Human History" where it is speculated that the Ainu/Jomon, at least in part, descend from the same people who were the ancestors of the Australian Aborigines and Papua New Guineans.) It is worth noting that the only man of non-subsaharan African ancestry to break 10.00s in the 100m is the Australian Aborigine Patrick Johnson (9.93s).

Steve Hsu said...

I don't think Komlos is wrong -- Asians are definitely closing the gap with Americans.

Re: lactose intolerance, that is related to why they traditionally have not had much dairy in their diet, but things are changing. You can now get calcium fortified soy milk and also lactose-reduced cow's milk in Asia, which is different from the past. Walk around any wealthier Asian city and you'll see that the young people are significantly taller than the older people.

Japan is a special case because even though they are a wealthy country the protein (and calcium) content of the traditional diet is low. Now that kids are starting to eat at McDonalds (i.e., a more western diet), things are starting to change. Koreans are big meat eaters and are now significantly taller than Japanese (there is probably a genetic component to this as well).

Anonymous said...

“I don't think Komlos is wrong -- Asians are definitely closing the gap with Americans.”

The Japanese are definitely not closing the gap any more. (see http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/houdou/19/10/07092511/007/002.xls ; http://www.mext.go.jp/english/statist/06060808/xls/135.xls )Whether that is due to genetic or dietary differences is debatable. Other Asians, like the Chinese and Koreans (http://khusm.khu.ac.kr/document/Anthro_SCI_0806.pdf ) may still be (definitely for the Chinese). The reason I criticized Komlos is that he has a definite agenda (to argue for national health care and more income redistribution). I trust his raw data, but his conclusions are suspect.

I’m a white American who has lived for many years in several European countries and traveled extensively. I’m 174 cm, so I tend to notice in different countries when there are large differences in the percentage of young men that I’m taller or shorter than. When in Germany, Holland or Denmark, I noticed that I’m taller than almost no young men. In Britain, I feel somewhat taller than I do around white Americans. In France and Italy, I still notice that most young men are taller than me, but I’m even relatively taller than in Britain. When I was in Seoul, Tokyo, and Kyoto (ca. 2007) I got a very different impression. I had read that Asians had gotten much larger, so I paid close attention and, to me at least, in Japan I was taller than most men in their 20s (a first for me), though not exceptionally so and in Korea I felt very average. Where I grew up, I had many Korean and Japanese-American friends and classmates (I lived with a Japanese American woman for several years). These young Asian Americans didn’t strike me as noticeably taller than shorter than their young Asian contemporaries, despite their American diets (they were fatter on average, however). (In fact, I loved playing basketball in math camp in high school because most of the other kids were Asian and that was the only time where I wasn’t short.)

“Koreans are big meat eaters and are now significantly taller than Japanese (there is probably a genetic component to this as well).”

You can definitely see that Japanese have substantial Korean ancestry, but that there is something else in there too. I’ve noticed that Koreans have, on average, more extreme ‘Mongoloid’ facial features and are lighter complexioned. (Actually, I noticed that the Japanese show a greater range in pigmentation - many Japanese and most Koreans are ‘yellow-white’, whereas many Japanese are a ‘yellow-brown’ that is uncommon among Koreans.) In addition to the height differences you note (does 2 cm qualify as significantly taller?), there also seem to be physique differences. I’ve noticed that most Asian men seem to fall into two body types: 1) A long-bodied, short-legged (but not short-armed) variety with fairly broad shoulders and narrow hips. The chest is not narrow, but very shallow. Bone structure/joints are very small and delicate, musculature is light, and the body is lean. 2) A long-bodied, short-legged, short armed, barrel-chested (but still relatively narrow hipped) type with a short, thick neck, large head, thick, heavy bones/joints, well muscled, and lacking definition because of a thick, uniformly distributed layer of body fat. The latter type seems to be much more common among Koreans than the Japanese, but both are found in both groups.

Anonymous said...

Where are all the white guys?

Has any all-white team run faster than the Japanese team? (GER, RUS, POL, ITA, AUS, ...)


4x100m RELAY

WORLD TOP ALL-TIME

JAMAICA 22 Aug 08
37.10 JAM
UNITED STATES 8 Aug 92
37.40 USA
CANADA 3 Aug 96
37.69 CAN
GREAT BRITAIN & N.I. 29 Aug 99
37.73 GBR
FRANCE 1 Sep 90
37.79 FRA
BRAZIL 30 Sep 00
37.90 BRA
NIGERIA 9 Aug 97
37.94 NGR
CUBA 8 Aug 92
38.00 CUB
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 26 Jul 08
38.00 TRI
JAPAN 1 Sep 07
38.03 JPN

Anonymous said...

One does not have to go back far to find white teams beating the Japanese. A (7/8 white) German team beat Japan in the 4x100m final at the 2005 World Athletics Championships, and a Polish team beat Japan in 2003.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point. No predominantly white 4x100 team has run faster than the fastest Japanese team.

No doped up GDR, USSR team, nor RUS, POL, GER, ITA, AUS, etc. team has run faster than the 38.03 put up by 4 Japanese guys.

Can you explain that?