Is Devon Allen The Best White Athlete?

Excuse my track bias, but he definitely deserves a seat at the table. Devon Allen, he the two-sport star at Oregon soon to make a name for himself at the upcoming Rio Olympics. Allen dominated this year in the hurdles for the Ducks’ track team, as he was uncontested all year long, culminating in an NCAA Outdoor Championship alongside a US Championship in early July. Allen won the 110 hurdles in a blazing 13.03, the third-fastest time in the world this year, immediately making him a contender for a gold medal.

Backtracking only a few months, Allen only would’ve been considered a lock to win the NCAA Outdoor Championships after his stellar season. Coming off of an ACL injury and missing last year, success was far from a guarantee for Allen. Now, he’s in the driver’s seat to becoming the first active collegiate athlete in (a long time? Ever?) to win an Olympic medal in track. Unlike many other sports (swimming, gymnastics,etc) where it’s more of a benefit to be extremely young (don’t hate me there’s literally a high-schooler in the Olympics for swimming EVERY year) track doesn’t give way to even the college crowd often. Richard Thompson won bronze in the 100 for Trinidad & Tobago at the London Olympics, but collegiate athletes winning medals in what’s commonly referred to as “athletics” is extremely rare. Couple that with the fact that track may not even be Allen’s best sport as he’s also a star wide receiver at Oregon (JK, it is) and you can get the vibe that it’s hard to envision a better athlete. Oh, and he’s white.

You can call it racist all you want, consider it an unnecessary argument, blah blah blah. If you look at figures and statistics, especially in sprinting, you emerge with a pretty clear picture. In sports where speed and pure athleticism is the name of the game (i.e. track) and where no learned skill, instrument or club membership is required (swimming, golf, tennis, hockey) the best white athletes pale in comparison to white athletes. In more ways than one. If you don’t believe me, you’re probably someone who believes that Babe Ruth and Ted Williams would be just as successful if they actually let other races play in the Major Leagues. Because there’s no talented Dominicans in the Majors, obviously. The last white male to win the Olympic title in the 100? That’d be British chap Allen Wells in 1952. How about Allen’s event the 110 hurdles? Surely something more recent. That information I couldn’t find so maybe it happened before the Olympics were invented.

As of 2010 a more staggering feat was accomplished. Chris Lemaitre became the first Caucasian man to run under 10 seconds in the 100. 9.98 was the original time, and 9.92 is his best. Doesn’t sound like the greatest accomplishment? That may be because you don’t have a chance of medaling, and that time may only secure you a championship at the NCAA Outdoors.

In case you wanted to complain about other pro athletes at the top of their game with Allen’s genetic makeup; think Bryce Harper, Alex Ovechkin and Tom Brady. Then try to picture them doing literally anything else. For Ovechkin and Brady you can’t, for Harper you can. But then try to picture them playing another sport at a professional level. Keep trying. And no, Allen hasn’t played football at the professional level yet but that option will surely be available to him should he show any interest in it.

This much is clear; Allen is in elite company and should be valued on his own merit. He’s far too talented to be thought of as “the fast white guy” because he’s proven himself to be head and shoulders above everyone else in this hurdling crop. However, it’s foolish to ignore how special it is what we’re seeing and what we are fortunate enough to keep seeing; a  20-year-old white college kid with the chance to win Olympic gold in a sport where no one college-aged or white ever wins, let alone competes on that stage. Add in that all of this is being done in his free time before he gets back to returning kicks and snagging touchdown passes for the Ducks football team and you have yourself a once-in-a-generation athlete who demands your full attention.

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