March 14, 2005

Double Ungood Crimethink from India

"Are Indians Born Losers" asks the Times of India:

MUMBAI: One hears the groan every four years: only one Olympic bronze medal for one billion people...

Experts blame sociological and genetic factors for our sports-deficient culture.

From the Indian thrifty gene to our finer bone structure, from our cereal-rich diet to vitamin-deficient status, doctors like Shashank Joshi blame "Indianness" for our droopy sporting history.

"It's a question of biology," says Dr Anoop Misra from the New Delhi-based All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). An expert in metabolic activity, he was approached by a British researcher to study India's poor sporting performance vis-a-vis that of the white and African populations.

"If the study had materialised, we would focus on the growth hormone as a factor for poor performance in sports," he says. He points out that "any athletic effort requires muscle power in terms of bulk and oxygenation capacity". And – you guessed it – Indians don't have enough of this.

"Ethnic Africans are natural sportsmen as they have muscular bulk," he says. This, in effect, puts paid to Indian hopes in the boxing arena or even the 100-m dash.

Dr Shashank Joshi, endocrinologist with Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, blames the thrifty genes that Indians have developed following bouts of famine and epidemics over the years. "As a genetic conservation mechanism, our genes learnt to hoard fat in order to survive," he says.

But the thrifty genes are now making Indians living in a zip-zap-zoom urban milieu susceptible to obesity and more-fat-less-muscle creatures. "Indians have 33 per cent body fat compared to 25 per cent in Caucasian or African ethnic groups," says Joshi, who is studying the metabolic activity of ethnic groups in India.

I'm not convinced that India will never amount to much in sports, but they are remarkably bad in right now in everything other than cricket. Of course, they don't seem to care very much either, so it's not that painful.

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